Hero Junior Agogo sets Ghana buzzing

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Everton striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni had put the Nigerians ahead against the run of play after 34 minutes when Ikechukwu Uche was fouled in the penalty area and Yakubu slotted home the resultant spot kick.

However, the host nation hit back on the stroke of half-time with Chelsea’s Michael Essien powering home a header which went in off the post.

Ghana’s hopes took a dent shortly after the interval when captain John Mensah was shown a red card for a professional foul on Peter Odemwingie.

However, Ghana steeled themselves and with just eight minutes remaining Sulley Muntari centred and Agogo stabbed home from close range.

“I am just happy we have gone through to the next round,” said Agogo afterwards.

“For me, personally I’m buzzing. When we went down to 10 men everyone had to give that extra 10 percent. I can’t believe we are through.”

This was sweet revenge for the Black Stars as Nigeria had dumped them out of the 2002 African Nations Cup at the same stage.

Ghana’s president John Kuffour was among the 45 000 capacity crowd in Accra that went into raptures after the final whistle.

“I’m so proud to be the Ghana coach, congratulations to them all,” said the team’s French coach Claude Le Roy, who led Cameroon to the 1988 title.

“They were heroes to first come back from a goal down, then hold on and get the winner,” he added before questioning the referee’s decision to send off Mensah.

“I don’t know whether John deserved the red card. The referee was very fast to send him off. This case was not clear cut.”

Ghana’s Portsmouth midfielder Sulley Muntari said the team had pulled together once their captain was out of the picture.

“When John was sent off we were all conscious of the responsibility on our shoulders. We couldn’t lose this match. It was a great effort to beat Nigeria, who aren’t a weak side, with a man down.”

Nigeria coach Berti Vogts said his team could go home with their heads held high.

“I’m very disappointed, we paid dear for our mistakes,” said the German.

“But I have a young team, they’re not so experienced as Ghana who were in the last World Cup. My boys gave 100 percent today, we lose together, we win together.”

Ghana will now face the winners of Monday’s quarter-final between Tunisia and Cameroon.