CROWD trouble marred the end of the Africa Cup of Nations semi-final between hosts Equatorial Guinea and Ghana in Malabo as the match was suspended in the closing stages.
Gabonese referee Eric Otogo-Castane halted the match in the 82nd minute. It resumed after about a 40-minute delay, and finished soon after.
The fans first became incensed after Ghana scored two late goals in the first half, and riot police were called in to protect Ghana’s players and fans.
After Ghana scored a third goal in the second half and water bottles began to rain again, the match was halted and the team’s fans were escorted out of the stadium for their own safety.
It took about 30 minutes for the Ghana fans to finally be cleared.
During the stoppage, one fan ran onto the field and confronted one of the linesmen, but he was quickly taken away by security.
A police helicopter appeared over the stadium several times, flying perilously close to fans in one end of the stadium. The wind from the propellers caused debris to fly up from the emptying seats.
Riot police later entered another section and cleared the area of fans, whacking their shields with their batons to scare spectators.
The Ghana players remained in the middle of the field until the restart, while many from the Equatorial Guinea squad tried to calm the angry fans.
Jordan Ayew and Wakaso Mubarak scored for Ghana late in the first half, prompting angry local fans to throw bottles filled with liquid toward Ghana’s players and officials. Riot police held their shields over their heads to escort them off the field, and then on again for the second half.
Despite pleas for calm from the public address announcer, bottles continued to be thrown throughout the second half, including after Andrew Ayew scored the third goal in the 75th.
Jordan Ayew gave the four-time champions the lead by converting a penalty in the 42nd. Ghana was awarded the spot kick after Kewsi Appiah was taken down by Equatorial Guinea goalkeeper Felipe Ovono on the edge of the area.
Mubarak made it 2-0 in injury time, collecting a pass from Christian Atsu in the area and beating opposing defender Ruben Belima before shooting in.
Some fans then went wild, throwing bottles at Ghana’s players as they attempted to head to the changing rooms.
Equatorial Guinea made a surprising run to the semifinals after taking over as host at short notice. The team was kicked out of qualifying for fielding an ineligible player, but reinstated when it assumed hosting responsibilities from Morocco in November.
Equatorial Guinea also endured trouble in the quarterfinals, when a controversial late penalty against Tunisia led to extra time. The hosts ended up winning 2-1, but furious Tunisian players attacked the referee, damaged their changing room, and were fined for their actions.
Although the hosts benefitted from the questionable call last weekend, the fans were clearly furious with the decision-making of Otogo-Castane on Thursday.