Essien blow for Ghana


LUANDA, January 18 – Ghana suffered a collossal blow to their hopes of qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations' quarter-finals when their best player, Michael Essien, was ruled out of Tuesday's game against Burkina Faso.Chelsea’s star midfielder misses the final Group B game in Luanda after injuring his right knee in training on Saturday.

Randy Abbey, Ghana’s team spokesman, told AFP: "Unfortunately we have had the results of the scan back and the coach has confirmed that Michael will definitely miss Tuesday’s game."

It was unclear how serious this latest setback was and whether Essien might recover in time to play any further role in Ghana’s Nations Cup campaign should they progress to the last eight.

Ghana are one point behind Burkina Faso and the four-time champions need a win to avoid being eliminated after the first round of the biennial African football showpiece.

It is impossible to underestimate the effect Essien’s absence will have on a side already ravaged by injury.

With a raft of key players missing the Black Stars fell 3-1 to competition favourites Ivory Coast in their opening game with coach Milovan Rajevac having to field a largely inexperienced side.

A fully fit Essien would have given Ghana strength and experience in midfield against a Burkina Faso side that was good enough to hold the Ivory Coast to a goalless draw in their opening Group C game.

Essien, who arrived in Angola late for the tournament because snow delayed his flight from London, has been struggling to recover from a hamstring injury sustained playing for Chelsea in the Champions League last month.

He was kept on the bench until half-time against Ivory Coast last Friday in Cabinda to avoid aggravating the injury and his second-half presence on the pitch could not prevent a 3-1 loss.

This new injury is completely unconnected to his previous problem and represents a cruel twist of fate for the Ghana international.