By James Agberebi:
Ten-man Ghana’s locally-based Black Stars have emerged champions of the 2017 West Africa Football Union (WAFU) Cup of Nations after defeating bitter rivals home-based Super Eagles of Nigeria 4-1 in the final in Cape Coast Stadium on Sunday.
Both sides had earlier met in the group stage with Nigeria winning 2-0 to secure qualification into the semi-finals.
A brace from Stephen Sarfo and a goal each from Vincent Atingah and Winful Cobbinah saw Ghana defend the WAFU Cup title which they won in 2013 also as hosts.
The home-based Eagles’ goal was scored by Kano Pillars’ Rabiu Ali, his second of the tournament.
For emerging champions, Ghana received the cash prize of $100,000, while the home-based Eagles got $50,000.
In the third place match which preceded the final, Niger Republic pipped Benin Republic 2-1.
The home-based Eagles had the first chance of the final when they were awarded a free-kick in a good area but Ali’s low shot was well saved by Ghana’s keeper Joe Addo.
In the 11th minute, Chima Akas found himself in acres of space only to see his low cross cleared away by Samuel Sarfo of Ghana.
Ghana won a free-kick in a good position on 25 minutes but the clever attempt was cleared for a corner.
From the resultant corner Ghana almost took the lead but a header was cleared off the line.
In the 35th minute Ghana went close again through Isaac Twum whose shot from the edge of the Nigerian “18” was punched away by goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa.
With five minutes left in the first half, the home-based Eagles were forced into an early change as Olamilekan went off injured and was replaced by Emmanuel Ariwachukwu.
Ghana eventually broke the deadlock thanks to Sarfo in the 44th minute who drilled a low shot at the blind side of Ezenwa.
In the 49th minute a lovely move by Nigeria almost resulted into a goal but Akas’ heavy touch denied him the chance on goal.
Ghana went on to double their lead in the 60th minute through Atingah’s penalty after substitute Patrick Razak was tripped inside the box.
Sarfo made it 3-0 to Ghana from the penalty spot in the 77th minute after Razak once again was fouled inside the box.
In the 91st minute, Atingah was sent off for picking up his second yellow card.
But in the 93rd minute Cobbinah made it 4-0 as he finished off a pass from Razak.
And in the 95th minute Ali scored a consolation goal for the home-based Eagles.