KUMASI, Ghana – A brace from substitute Mubarak Wakaso helped Ghana into the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals with a 2-0 win over Cape Verde on Saturday.
The pre-tournament favourites needed until the 54th minute to open the scoring, with Wakaso netting from the penalty spot at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
Cape Verde surprisingly dominated after the goal, but failed to equalise and were punished late on.
Espanyol midfielder Wakaso found an empty net in the fifth minute of additional time after Cape Verde goalkeeper Vozinha had come forward for a corner.
Ghana will face the winner of the quarter-final between Burkina Faso and Togo in the last four.
Kwesi Appiah’s men made a quiet start against Cape Verde as both teams looked to be testing each other early on.
Cape Verde winger Heldon had an early opportunity, blazing an effort high before his strike from distance went just over.
Ghana struggled to make inroads and both goalkeepers were largely untested throughout the remainder of the first half.
It took until the second half for either side to get a shot on target, with Cape Verde striker Julio Tavares heading an effort which Fatawu Dauda dealt with.
But as the encounter came to life, Ghana earned a penalty after Asamoah Gyan was played through on goal, only to be fouled in the area.
Wakaso stepped up and gave Ghana the lead from the spot in the 54th minute.
Cape Verde responded well after conceding and continued to create opportunities, only to fail to apply the final touch as Ghana struggled to keep possession.
They continued to pile on the pressure and midfielder Babanco whipped in two wonderful crosses, but neither found a team-mate.
Dauda was eventually forced to make a save, tipping substitute Djaniny’s effort around his post.
Time was running out for Cape Verde and Vozinha came forward for a late corner, only for it to be cleared to Wakaso, who finished the easiest of chances to seal the win.
Lucio Antunes, Cape Verde’s charismatic coach who will now return to his day job as an air traffic controller, told reporters: “We cannot complain about the referee’s decisions…we did not complain in our first three matches.
“But while I respect his country, is it right that a referee from Mauritius should be in charge of such a big match as an African Nations Cup quarter-final?”.
Antunes, a close friend of Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, summed up the match in a manner not unfamiliar to the outspoken Portuguese.
“We have just watched a beautiful game of football but the best team lost. The best team in the competition is now going home so the tournament will lose a little of its shine,” said the Cape Verde coach.
“But I congratulate Ghana. Although we were the better team they got the goals so it was a fair result. And really, who would want to see a semi-final between Togo or Burkina Faso and Cape Verde? There would be 200 people there.
“The tournament needs big teams like Ghana at the end,” added Antunes.
Gyan said the penalty proved to be the turning point in the match.
“We expected a difficult game and Cape Verde certainly gave us one,” said the striker. “They are tactically disciplined and get behind the ball well. “The first half was a bit frustrating and they played better than us in the second half but the penalty was the key to winning. It put us on top and opened up the match.
“Now we have to correct our mistakes and improve for the semi-final,” added Gyan who is hoping his side can land the title for the first time in 31 years.
Scorer: W. Mubarak (PG) 54′ W. Mubarak 90’+5
Ghana line up: Fatau Dauda, John Paintsil, Harrison Afful, John Boye, Isaac Vorsah, Rabiu Mohammed(84′ D. Boateng), Albert Adomah(47′ M. Wakaso), Agyemang Badu, Asamoah Gyan, Christian Atsu(78′ S Asante), Kwadwo Asamoah
Cape Verde: Vózinha Fernando Varela Nando Nivaldo Toni Varela Marco Soares Babanco Ryan Mendes Héldon Júlio Tavares Carlitos