Ghana have failed to reach the final of the 2019 Africa U23 Cup of Nations after losing to Ivory Coast in the semi-final on Tuesday.

The Black Meteors lost 3-2 on penalties after the game finished 2-2. Ibrahim Tanko’s side came from behind twice including a last-gasp equaliser scored by Evans Mensah.

Mensah was, however, not clinical from 12 yards as he Kwabena Owusu, and Emmanuel Cudjoe missed during the shootout. Ivory Coast goalkeeper Ira Tape saved all three penalties.

The defeat also delays Ghana’s qualification to the Tokyo Olympic Games. The Black Meteors will have another opportunity to qualify for next year’s games when they take on the loser of semi-final clash between Egypt and South Africa in the third-place playoff on Saturday.

A fine start saw the Ivorians take the lead in the 12th minute. Youssouf Dao left unmarked tucked the ball past Kwame Baah and into the back of the net from the edge of the six-yard box.

Ivory Coast could have scored more but a combination of good goalkeeping by Kwame Baah and poor finishing meant the first half ended 1-0.

Ghana’s best chance in the half fell to Kwabena Owusu, who had replaced Robin Polley after 28 minutes, but he failed to hit the target with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Black Meteors improved in the second half and scored against the run of play in the 50th minute. Captain Yaw Yeboah led by example as he found the back of the net with a well-taken strike from close range.

But the Ivorians took control. Ishmael Diallo failed to hit the target with a header in the six-yard box on 60 minutes. Kwame Baah also made a couple of decent stops.

They wouldn’t be denied with four minutes to end proceedings as Dao headed in his second goal following an inch-perfect cross from the boot of Sellas Gnanka.

However, in added time, Ghana staged another comeback. Owusu was fouled in the box but the referee waved play on as the ball fell to the feet of Evans Mensah, who found the net with a stunning shot to force the game into extra time.

The first half of extra time didn’t produce any clear cut opportunity.

It was a different story in the second period with two teams going for the winner. Mensah was put clear on goal but failed to find the target while Dao hit the target but Baah made a comfortable save.

The game had to be decided on penalties with Ivory Coast proving strong as they won 3-2.