Essien blow for ghan a

LUANDA, Angola - Ghana's hopes of reaching the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations were dealt a blow when Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien was ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a knee injury.

LUANDA, Angola - Ghana's hopes of reaching the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations were dealt a blow when Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien was ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a knee injury.

Essien sustained the injury at training on Sunday.

"He will not be able to play anymore in the tournament," Ghana spokesperson Randy Abbey said yesterday.

After their 3-1 loss to Ivory Coast in Group B, Ghana must beat Burkina Faso today in Luanda to go through.

Teams in Group B play only two games each and the top two advance to the knockout phase after Togo pulled out of the tournament after a deadly ambush on their team bus.

Ivory Coast have already qualified from Group B with four points from two games, three more than Burkina Faso.

Ghana are bottom of the group without a point after one game.

Essien, who played only 45 minutes against Ivory Coast, returned to training two weeks ago with Chelsea after being injured on December 8.

Essien's absence will severely weaken a side already ravaged by injury.

The Black Stars fell 3-1 to competition favourites Ivory Coast in their opening game, with coach Milovan Rajevac forced 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 Ivory Coast to a goalless draw in their opening group match. - Sapa-AFP and AP

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