Nkong fires Cameroon into final

Cameroon are only one step away from a record-equalling fifth Africa Nations Cup title after wrecking Ghana’s party with a 1-0 semifinal win over the hosts in Accra on Thursday.

The winners in 1984, 1988, 2000 and 2002 came through a tense affair with Alain Nkong’s second-half strike breaking the gridlock and firing Cameroon into Sunday’s final.

Cameroon were to find out the identity of their adversaries after Thursday’s later semifinal up in Kumasi between holders Egypt and the team they beat to win the title in 2006, Côte d’Ivoire.

They will go into the final missing Andre Bikey, the Reading defender picking up a red card after pushing an official in the 90th minute.

Ghana were without suspended John Mensah, with Michael Essien inheriting his captain’s armband and Haminu Draman filling in for the Rennes defender.

There was no place for Asamoah Gyan, with Ghana coach Claude Le Roy preferring Hearts midfielder Laryea Kingston with Junior Agogo and Quincy Owusu Abeyie on striking duty.

However, Kingston injured his ankle just before kick-off, with Andre Ayew, the son of Ghana legend Pele Ayew, a last-minute replacement.

Cameroon coach Otto Pfister made one change from Monday’s extra-time quarterfinal win over Tunisia. Midfielder Jean Makoun made way for Joseph Desire Job, who joined Eto’o and Mohamadou Idrissou in a three-pronged attack.

The locals’ PSV Eindhoven midfielder Eric Addo had the crowd groaning when he missed a gilt-edged, close-range header from a Sulley Muntari free kick at an unattended far post on one of Ghana’s early assaults on Carlos Kameni’s goal.

On the half-hour mark, Marseille striker Ayew showed some nimble footwork to beat two Cameroon defenders but his low drive lacked punch.

Cameroon went so close to taking control seven minutes from the break when Newcastle midfielder Geremi fired off a 35m free kick that sailed over the Ghanaian defence only to hit the crossbar.

That was one of the few high points in a scrappy, tense first period as both sides displayed nerves, but Ayew could have poached the lead for Ghana on the whistle only for his header to go high.

At half-time the giant screen picked out a vulture flying high over the three-quarter-full Ohene Djan Stadium, the bird of prey perhaps hoping for the demise of the Indomitable Lions for his dinner.

Pfister replaced Idrissou with his Bundesliga colleague Joel Epalle for the start of the second half, which the Black Stars took by the scruff of the neck with some lively attacking moves.

Ghana began to put some free-flowing movements together and looked the more likely to score, with Muntari teaming up well with Essien at one point only for the Chelsea star’s shot to fly high.

Le Roy, who coached Cameroon to the title in 1988, made his first substitution on the hour with Owusu coming off for Baffour Gyan, with Pfister introducing Alain Nkong for Job.

Pfister’s ploy paid almost immediate dividends when Nkong, who is based in Mexico, sent Cameroon into the lead against the run of play in the 71st minute.

After a long clearance out of the Lions’ defence, Eto’o set up the midfielder and he did well to fire home from 15 yards to beat Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingson and silence the home fans.

Ghana were almost back level with 10 minutes left when Junior Agogo’s head connected with a 40m Muntari free kick, only for the Nottingham Forest striker’s effort to edge the wrong side of the cross-bar.

In the last minute of normal time, Bikey then saw red, arguing with an official tending to keeper Kameni.—Sapa-AFP

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