Fortuitous or call it whatever you want, the result was a winning goal scored by defender, William Troost-Ekong in the 90th minute of a thrilling game at the Cairo International Stadium yesterday. It was enough to give the Super Eagles a 2-1 defeat of old enemy, South Africa in their quarterfinal game.
A lot was made of South Africa’s newfound fame as giant slayers following their round of 16 defeat of hosts, Egypt, complete with Mo Salah. But in the Super Eagles, the Bafana Bafana met a team that was not ready to yield grounds in their quest for the last four of Africa’s most prestigious sports competition.
The Super Eagles bossed the first half and could have scored more than the lone strike put in by Samuel Chukwueze, but for some wayward finishing in front of goal.
The Super Eagles took the lead in the 28th minute through Chukwueze, who finished off a one-two move by Ahmed Musa and Alex Iwobi down the left.
In the first half, the Super Eagles looked especially dangerous on the counter-attack, particularly through Musa on the left wing, who was giving Thamsanqa Mkhize a torrid time.
In the 36th minute, Gernot Rohr’s side broke quickly on the counter-attack through the aforementioned Musa, who cut inside and laid the ball off for Chukwueze, but his effort went horribly high and wide.
The first half ended 1-0 advantage Nigeria.
When Nigerians thought the Super Eagles would consolidate their control of the game in the second half, they surprisingly sat back, allowing the South Africans to come at them.
This drew a lot of pressure on the Nigerian defence and it was only a matter of time before it capitulated.
Bafana Bafana were able to launch promising attacks following the introduction of Themba Zwane, who replaced the ineffective Lorch.
The goal came in the with 19 minutes to the end of the game when Bongani Zungu’s header off Percy Tau’s free-kick beat Daniel Akpeyi for the equalizer. It was initially ruled offside before referee Rédouane Jiyed consulted with Video Assistant Referee (VAR), which showed that the ball hit a Nigerian defender before falling for Zungu.
Nigeria restored their lead in the 87th minute when a Moses Simon corner hit
Troost-Ekong’s shin to sail into the net.
The victory maintained Nigeria’s record of never losing to South Africa in the African Cup of Nations.
The Super Eagles will now take on the winner between Algeria and Cote d’Ivoire in one of the semifinals on Sunday.
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