Two-time winners, Ghana progressed into the Final of the Total U-17 Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017 following a dramatic 6-5 penalty shootout win over Niger at Stade de port Gentil on Wednesday.
The match did not produce a goal in regulation time but it was the Black Starlets that got lucky in the end when Emmanuel Toku scored the decisive kick- after Niger’s Djibrilla Mossi saw his kick ricocheted off the bar.
The victory eased Ghana into their fourth finals following victories in 1995, 1999 as well as being losing finalist in 2005.
But this crunch West African derby was not going to be a tea party as the game see-sawed from one end to another in the early minutes with both teams attacking and defending in numbers.
The Black Starlets on few occasions threatened on goal but nothing to show for their spirited efforts for almost half an hour. Minutes after, Niger broke away but Ibrahim Marou’s lively shot was blocked away by Edmund Arko-Mensah.
At the restart, Ghana continued with their search for goal and Emmanuel Toku nearly broke the deadlock with a 60th minute well-struck free kick only for goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim to tipped it away. Ten minutes later, Ibrahim pulled the ‘ safe of his life’ by blocking away Eric Ayiah’s point-blank shot.
But Sofiane Habibou was almost breaking Ghana’s heart when he struck the bar off a rebound free-kick in the 86th minute but both sides held on tenaciously till the end of regulation time.
On Sunday at Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville, Ghana will play for the trophy against winner of the other fixture between Mali and Guinea while Niger play for the third place.
Total Man of the Match: Emmanuel Toku (Ghana)
Samuel Fabian (Head Coach, Ghana)
We have given people of Port Gentil really entertainment, it was a very tactical match and I want to congratulate Niger for giving us a very good match. Though we had chances, we missed them up but we are lucky to go through on penalties, we would go back into the drawing and correct the mistakes before heading for the final on Sunday. We scored nine goals in the first two matches and we couldn’t score in the last two matches. I wished I can be crowned winners of this tournament now because I don’t have any preference between Mali and Guinea.
Ismaila Tiemoko (Head Coach, Niger)
The game was done very well and as I said before now, we knew ourselves and Ghana was very lucky in the penalty shootout, I want to congratulate the coach of Ghana for this victory. We have improved and our next focus after the U-17 is the U-20 which hopefully most of these boys would be available and we have learned so much from this tournament.
Emmanuel Toku (Ghana)
I’m very happy that I eventually scored the winning penalty; I dedicate this goal for the people of Ghana at home as well as those at the stadium today to support us. We would give our best in the final to win the trophy.
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football