Pitroipa puts Burkina Faso in semis, Togo out
African Cup of Nations quarter-final, Mbombela Stadium – Burkina Faso 1 (Pitroipa 105) Togo 0.
Jonathan Pitroipa’s extra-time header put Burkina Faso in the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations at the expense of Togo.
The match was largely a dreary affair –Adebayor’s early second-half header cleared off the line was the only major chance until a frantic final 15 minutes that saw both sides threaten more than they had all game.
That spell saw lively Burkinabe substitute Prejuce Nakoulma denied a clear penalty, while Adebayor was denied by fine goalkeeping from Daouda Diakite.
With extra-time beckoning neither side took too many risks, but Burkina Faso were the more positive and just about deserved their victory.
It is the second time they have reached the last four, and the first time they have done so outside their homeland – and that was in 1998.
Played on the now infamously ragged pitch in Nelspruit, the first half was a cagey, messy affair punctuated by late challenges and unusual refereeing, which saw five players booked for minor infringements yet many get away with high and dangerous tackles.
Chances were rare for both sides. Floyd Ayite was denied an 18th-minute goal by a combination of poor composure and a terrible bobble off the surface.
Down the other end Pitroipa was similarly hampered by the pitch when – after starting the counter attack with a driving run – he arrived to meet Wilfried Sanou’s low cross-shot, which bounced backwards off his heels and away.
Otherwise it was all long-range shots and mis-hit crosses from both sides, although unusually for these finals both sides also defended capably.
The second half started promisingly, with Togo – who had been the more conservative in the first period – taking the game to Burkina Faso, Adebayor beating Diakite to a high ball but his header cleared off the line by Saidou Panandetiguiri.
But it soon degenerated into a scrap, with nothing of note occurring at either end until Togo defender Vincent Bossou headed over from a corner.
The lack of quality was not helped by the surface, but the decision making was at times dreadful – highlighted when Charles Kabore elected to shoot from 35 yards after a free-kick was played square to him. Clearly a ball into the box would have posed more danger with the ball bouncing as it was.
Togo sub Prince Segbefia was getting in good positions from the right wing, but his touch constantly let him down as a succession of wild crosses and shots failed to reach targets.
Indeed, Burkina Faso’s decision to throw on Prejuce Nakoulma was making a greater impact as he caused repeated problems on the left – one of his runs should have yielded a penalty, when the Senegalese referee somehow failed to spot Bossou’s clear foul on the Gornik Zabrze forward.
Suddenly the match had opened up, with Adebayor nearly getting a wonder goal as he shrugged off two challenges before being denied by a fine Diakite stop.
Nakoulma was the danger man though, another scintillating run from him ripping Togo apart, but his finish under pressure went wide.
That was the last chance of the 90 minutes, as extra-time was played for a second time at these finals, with hosts South Africa having gone out to Mali on penalties.
The Burkinabes had the better of the additional half-hour, with another sub – the returning Alain Traore – firing a low drive too that Kossi Agassa saved at his near post.
And they got the vital goal just as the first quarter-hour was up when Pitroipa cleverly escaped his marker with a reverse diagonal run, meeting Kabore’s near-post delivery with an arching header that flew in off the bar past a poorly-placed Agassa.
It was Agassa’s first real error of the finals, and it proved costly as – despite a late rally and the introductions of Dove Wome and Moustapha Salifou – Togo failed to find an equaliser.