Zambia through to African Cup of Nations final

| February 8, 2012

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BATA, Equatorial Guinea (AP) -Zambia is through to the final of the African Cup of Nations for the first time in 18 years after beating Ghana 1-0 on Wednesday from Emmanuel Mayuka’s late goal.

The second-half substitute scored in the 78th minute to punish Ghana for missing an early penalty. Striker Asamoah Gyan’s eighth-minute spot kick was saved by goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.

Gyan’s penalty failure echoed his miss from the spot in the World Cup quarterfinal against Uruguay two years ago. On Wednesday, the striker was later substituted.

Zambia’s win sets up an emotional final in the Gabonese capital Libreville, where 25 players and officials were killed in a plane crash in 1993. Ivory Coast faces Mali later Wednesday in the other semifinal.

“This is the greatest moment ever a player can have to play in the final,” Zambia captain Christopher Katongo said. “We go to the final without any pressure. We have to take this cup, this is an opportunity. It doesn’t come every day.”

Zambia coach Herve Renard was full of praise for his players.

“It’s amazing,” Renard said. “They did something fantastic (in reaching the semifinals), but now they did something amazing.”

“We were lucky,” he added. “Our goalkeeper saved us after a few minutes.”

Ghana’s Derek Boateng was shown a late red card as his team sank to defeat. His team dominated possession and had a string of chances, but could find no way past the Zambia defense.

“We are sorry for the whole of Ghana for what happened today,” captain John Mensah said. “It’s unlucky that we lose this game. We promise them we will come back strongly next year.”

Ghana coach Goran Stevanovich snubbed the post-match news conference, while Gyan also avoided talking to the media.

Stevanovich made three changes from the starting lineup that beat Tunisia 2-1 in extra time in the quarterfinals, with Jordan Ayew replacing Sulley Muntari, defender Lee Addy making his first start of the tournament in place of Masahudu Alhassan, and Boateng coming in for the injured Emmanuel Agyemang Badu.

Jordan Ayew joined brother Andre in the team, while Gyan and Mensah were also selected after shrugging off injury doubts.

Zambia coach Herve Renard brought striker James Chamanga into the starting lineup with Mayuka dropping to the bench, while Davies Nkausu was preferred to Chisamba Lungu in defense.

“I called Emmanuel Mayuka to my room this morning and told him that he had played four very good games, but I just wanted him to rest a bit to be ready for the last 30 minutes,” Renard said. “When you are coach sometimes you are right sometimes you are wrong. This time I was right.”

Despite organizers offering free entry, the 37,500-capacity Estadio de Bata was still mostly empty at kickoff. Hundreds of fans were still streaming into the stadium at halftime, though.

Zambia started well, but Ghana was presented with a penalty when Nkausu was ruled to have clipped Kwadwo Asamoah’s trailing leg in

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