Blame it on a Black Star: Gyan scored his third goal of the competition [AFP] 
Ghana reached the Africa Cup of Nations final for the first time in 18 years with a fiery 1-0 win over West African rivals Nigeria.

Asamoah Gyan scored his third goal of the tournament midway through the first half to keep the Black Stars on course for their first trophy since 1982 - and knock the Super Eagles out for the second consecutive time.

Ghana's purple-clad keeper Richard Kingson was in imperious form as he saved a string of efforts from Obafemi Martins as Nigeria laid siege to the Ghana goal in the second half.

They will face either reigning champions Egypt or Algeria in the final, with the North Africans playing their semi-final in Benguela later on Thursday.

The result marks a resurgence in Ghanaian football, with the team on the verge of their second World Cup appearance and boasting eight players from their victorious Under-20 World Cup campaign last year.

It leaves Nigeria - themselves without a title since 1994 - to fight for their fourth bronze medal in five tournaments.

The Super Eagles could have gone ahead in the first minute when Martins burst through the defence, finding captain Peter Odemwingie on the left.

Smothered

His lofted return found the Wolfsburg striker but Martins couldn't control as opposing skipper Kingson smothered the danger.

Semi-finals

Thursday January 28

Luanda
 Ghana 1-0 Nigeria

Benguela
 Algeria v Egypt

Lee Addy's ball into the box on nine minutes could have produced one of the spectacular goals of the tournament as Dede Ayew attempted a backheeled volley from just inside the box that flew wide of Vincent Enyeama's goal.

Nigeria began to play the better football and a half-empty November 11 stadium cheered the touches of Odemwingie and George Olofinjana, with Angolans still hurting from defeat by Ghana four days earlier.

But in the 21st minute, the same combo of Asamoahs that had knocked out the hosts gave Ghana the lead.

Again Kwadwo Asamoah was the provider as he swung in a corner from the right for Gyan to climb above Obinna Nwaneri and power an unstoppable near-post header into the net.

Six minutes later, Martins was guilty of an inexcusable miss as he controlled a shot by Odemwingie and, with time and space, chose power over finesse to drive the ball well within Kingson's arm span.

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The healthy rivalry between the two West African powerhouses was creating some sparks on the pitch, with Ghana's Agyeman Badu kicking lumps out of Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel before Ayila Yussuf earned a yellow card for taking revenge with a late lunge.

As half time approached Sani Kaita let fly with an effort from 30 yards out but watched it ping back off the stanchion holding up the nets.

Nigeria were out early for the second half and got behind the Ghana defence twice within the first minute.

Jeers

But  their failure to carve out clear chances was typified by a spectacular Martins air shot on the hour that the left the striker sprawled on the ground with jeers ringing round the stadium.

Kingson was in unbeatable form [AFP]
He almost made up for it a minute later, but Kingson was again up to the task as he chested away the former Newcastle United man's attempted lob.

Chinedu Obasi then raced onto an Ayila through ball but blazed his half-volley well over the bar.

Martins wasn't giving up and with 20 minutes left was again bearing down on goal before Isaac Vorsah and Samuel Inkoom cleared the danger.

Everton striker Yakubu came on for Odemwingie and had a chance within seconds but flashed a difficult effort over the bar from inside the box before Martins was again stopped on his run by a combination of Kingson and the defence.

With three minutes to go, Kingson received treatment on the pitch after a brave punch off the head of Obasi.

Nigeria last beat Ghana in the group stages of the 2006 edition, before the Black Stars knocked the Super Eagles out in the quarter-finals when they hosted the tournament two years later.

Ghana, without stars like Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari for most of this tournament, last contested the final in 1992, losing 11-10 to Cote d'Ivoire on penalties after a 0-0 draw in Senegal.

They won the competition for the fourth time in their history with victory over Libya 28 years ago. 

Source: Al Jazeera