Violence mars AFCON semi

Malabo - Equatorial Guinea coach Esteban Becker admitted he was saddened while Ghana star Andre Ayew was bitter over the violence and chaos which overshadowed Thursday's Africa Cup of Nations semi-final.

VIDEO: Equatorial Guinea fans halt AFCON semi

Riot police used batons and tear gas to quell violent home supporters who launched missiles and water bottles onto terrified Ghana fans as well as onto the pitch at the 15 000-seater Estadio de Malabo.

The match, which Ghana won 3-0, was stopped in the 82nd minute and was held up for more than 35 minutes as players from both sides sought a safe haven in the centre of the pitch.

Ghana fans raced from the terraces to take shelter from the attacks behind one of the goals.

A helicopter hovered overhead as harassed officials dithered over whether or not to abandon the game.

The semi-final did eventually restart but Gabonese referee Eric Otogo played only a few minutes before ending the one-sided game.

"What concerns me is what happened with the supporters, I am very sad," said Argentine coach Becker.

Equatorial Guinea striker Emilio Nsue added: "I am desolate for all the team. I have never played in a match in this kind of atmosphere."

Ghana's former Chelsea coach Avram Grant admitted he feared for the welfare of his players.

"I was preoccupied by the safety of my players without really knowing what had happened," said Grant.

"I tried to concentrate on the pitch."

Ayew who scored Ghana's third goal in the 75th minute said he feared for his team's fans.

"I am worried for our supporters," said Ayew. "When we saw the helicopter, the fans were getting injured. I am very disappointed and very bitter."

As the drama and chaos unfolded, a Ghana Football Association tweet read: "Police helicopter hovers above the pitch with the Ghana fans in real danger. It's now like a war zone."

The GFA Twitter account later added:"#Ghana fans moved out of the stadium with barbaric acts of vandalism and unprovoked violent attacks still going on."

The crowd trouble followed a controversial quarter-final last Saturday in which Equatorial Guinea scored off a dubiously-awarded stoppage-time penalty en route to shock 2-1 win over Tunisia.

The tension on Thursday had been clear at half-time when the referee and Ghana players had to be escorted to the dressing rooms by security forces.

Even then, missiles were raining down after home fans and their team were left furious after a controversial 42nd-minute penalty from which Jordan Ayew gave Ghana the lead.

Tempers boiled over when Wakaso Mubarak added a quick second goal on the half-time whistle.

The tense atmosphere inside the ground was racked up after the break despite appeals for calm made over the public address system.

Sirens of police vehicles and ambulances outside the arena did little to ease the fears of Ghana supporters.

The Ghana-Ivory Coast final in port city Bata Sunday will be a repeat of the 1992 final won 11-10 on penalties by Ivory Coast after 120 goalless minutes in Dakar.

Equatorial Guinea, who exceeded expectations by reaching the semi-finals, face the Democratic Republic of Congo in Malabo Saturday for third place.

However, after Thursday's shambolic scenes, it remains to be seen whether or not that match will be played at the venue or at the 30 000-capacity Bata stadium.

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