Burkina Faso book semis spot
Jonathan Pitroipa (Gallo)
Nelspruit - Burkina Faso advanced to the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) with a 1-0 extra-time victory over Togo at Mbombela Stadium, in Nelspruit, on Sunday night.
It was a hard fought west African encounter with the only goal of the game coming in the 105th minute when Jonathan Pitroipa netted with a well-taken header.
This is only the second time in their history that the Stallions have reached the last four, and they have achieved the feat as the team with the best defensive record, having conceded just one goal in four matches.
There was little to separate the two sides in regulation time as they were locked at 0-0 after regulation time.
The two goalkeepers were not properly tested during the first stanza as neither side managed to create any real threats in their opponents' box.
The attacking intent was certainly there from both teams as the game flowed, but with no end product.
Togo had a great chance after 17 minutes when some neat interplay around the box saw Serge Gapke pulling the ball back for Floyd Ayite, but he scuffed the close-range shot into the ground and the ball tamely went through to keeper Daouda Diakite.
Burkina Faso had the next two chances as Issouf Ouattara saw his looping header go wide of goal, and then on the half-hour mark Wilfried Sanou drove into the box but had his low shot deflected away from goal.
The Sparrow Hawks managed a couple of efforts on goal in the closing minutes of the first half, but they were all from range and none of them troubled Diakite.
Togo's talisman, Emmanuel Adebayor, had been relatively quiet in the opening 45 minutes, but two minutes after the break the Tottenham Hotspur striker was almost on the score-sheet.
Having got the better of Burkinabe keeper Diakite in an aerial challenge following Gapke's in-swinging cross, Adebayor had to watch as defender Madi Panandetiguiri got back to clear the ball off the line.
The two west African rivals remained evenly matched, with the next chance coming in the 66th minute as Vincent Bossou failed to find the net while stretching for a header just a few metres out from goal.
With around 15 minutes left, the Stallions thought they had won a penalty when Prejuce Nakoulma tangled with Bossou in the Togo box, but nothing was given.
Soon afterwards Adebayor found himself in on goal after a strong run, but Diakite closed down the angle well.
The game then went to extra time after the first 90 minutes ended all square.
Burkina Faso were the more attack-minded side after the restart and had the first chance of extra time when Abdou Razak had his shot from a tight angle saved by Kossi Agassa.
The deadlock was finally broken just seconds before the end of the first half of additional time when Pitroipa netted with a brilliant header, showing great technique to arch his body backwards, making powerful contact and watching as the ball went into goal off the underside of the crossbar.
The second period of extra time was relatively incident free as the rock-solid defence of the eventual winners prevented Togo from harbouring any hopes of an equaliser.
Paul Put's Stallions will now face Ghana at Mbombela Stadium on Wednesday for a place in their first ever AFCON final, where they will meet either Nigeria or Mali.