Crowd trouble marred Ghana’s African Nations Cup semi-final win over hosts Equatorial Guinea in Malabo as Ghana fans were forced to flee the stands after being pelted with bottles.
The Ghana Football Association’s Twitter feed described the scene as being “like a war zone” as a police helicopter hovered over the ground while bottles and other objects were being thrown.
The match, which Ghana won 3-0, was suspended for around half an hour as the Black Stars supporters were forced to leave the stands and take refuge on the pitch behind one of the goals after being bombarded with objects from rival fans.
Referee stops the game because of more projectiles being thrown on to the pitch by the #EqGuinea fans. pic.twitter.com/x7uvaJI7KP— Ghana Football Association (@ghanafaofficial) February 5, 2015
Bottles could be seen scattered across the running track which surrounded the pitch, while there were reports of tear gas being fired into the stands in a bid to control the Equatorial Guinea fans.
A Tweet sent on the Ghana FA’s official account during the match said: “Police helicopter hovers above the pitch with the #Ghana fans in real danger. It’s now like a war zone. #AFCON2015”.
The referee stopped the match and the players were left waiting in the middle of the pitch to find out if it would restart, with the Equatorial Guinea players pleading with their fans to calm down.
Ghana supporters appeared to be escorted away by police through the tunnel, with reports of Equatorial Guinea supporters waiting for them outside the stadium.
#Ghana fans being attacked in the stands. They are ushered onto the pitch and more misses fly in. Game halted pic.twitter.com/hEBWIquzDH— Ghana Football Association (@ghanafaofficial) February 5, 2015
The match had eight minutes left to go when the trouble occurred and it looked set to be abandoned, but incredibly was allowed to continue following much deliberation between the match officials, players and coaches and competition officials.
Players cleared bottles off the pitch before the game restarted in the 90th minute. Three minutes of stoppage time were played without incident.
When the match did finish, Ghana coach Avram Grant and counterpart Esteban Becker embraced and there were handshakes between the players.
Equatorial Guinea only stepped in to host the tournament at the 11th hour after Morocco pulled out due to fears regarding the Ebola epidemic.
Police helicopter hovers above the pitch with the #Ghana fans in real danger. It's now like a war zone. #AFCON2015 pic.twitter.com/9s7UkrYxQF— Ghana Football Association (@ghanafaofficial) February 5, 2015
Having never qualified for a World Cup, Equatorial Guinea’s only previous African Nations Cup campaign was in 2012 when they reached the quarter-finals.
They went one better than that by knocking Tunisia out in the last eight in the most dramatic of circumstances, but that achievement was soured by Thursday night’s events.
Leicester’s Ghanaian player Jeff Schlupp wrote on Twitter: “Absolutely embarrassing! Just let us go to the final and win this tournament in peace! #Ghana #BlackStars.”
Ghana FA president Kwesi Nyantakyi later told BBC Sport the trouble was an isolated incident which should not overshadow the tournament.
#Ghana fans moved out of the stadium with barbaric acts of vandalism and unprovoked violent attacks still going on. pic.twitter.com/iOJ3vY8VER— Ghana Football Association (@ghanafaofficial) February 5, 2015
“I don’t think this is a fair commentary of Africa,” he said.
“This has been a very successful tournament and this isolated incident of violence will leave a slur on the reputation of African football.
“It is very unfortunate and it doesn’t deserve that.”
Ghana had taken the lead when Jordan Ayew scored a 42nd minute penalty after Felipe Ovono raced out of his goal and clattered into Kwesi Appiah and then, three minutes later, Wakaso Mubarak finished off a swift counter-attack after Equatorial Guinea had left themselves wide open at the back following a corner.
Andre Ayew tapped home a third in the 75th minute.
Equatorial Guinea face a third-place play-off against DR Congo in the same stadium on Saturday, with Ghana and Ivory Coast meeting in the final in Bata a day later.