Africa: Nigeria Stuns South Africa – Super Eagles Zoom Into 2024 Afcon Final

Two penalty goals sent this encounter into penalties, where South Africa-based Nigerian goalkeeper Nwabali made two saves to send Nigeria into Sunday’s final.

A cagey encounter between two past AFCON champions, Nigeria and South Africa, was settled on penalties after 90 minutes and extra time ended 1-1.

William Troost Ekong scored for Nigeria in the 67th minute, while Mothiba Mokoena scored South Africa’s equaliser in the 90th minute. In the penalty shootout, South Africa-based Nigerian goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali saved the first and third kicks from Mokoena and Evidence Makgopa.

Ola Aina lost Nigeria’s third, but Ekong, substitute Kenneth Omeruo, and Iheanacho converted their kicks to send the Super Eagles into an eighth AFCON final, where they will meet either Cote d’Ivoire or DR Congo, who were still playing the second semi-final at the time of this report.

First Half

Zaidu Sanusi’s absence forced Jose Peseiro to make a change, with Ola Aina switching to the left wingback position and Bright Osayi-Samuel coming in as the right wingback. There was concern within 30 seconds of the start, as Victor Osimhen had a stomach complaint. Semi Ajayi displayed superb skills to get away from his opponent in the sixth minute, but his cross was too long.

Aina’s cross immediately after caused chaos in the South Africa box, and Ronwen Williams took out William Troost-Ekong as he punched clear. Bafana Bafana grew in confidence and immediately threatened through Sphephelo Sithole’s shot, which was straight at Kelvin Nwabali.

Ajayi headed straight at Williams in the 24th minute. The Eagles needed the West Brom defender in his box immediately after, as he needed to make a great tackle on Themba Zwane as the Sundowns midfielder strode towards the Nigerian goal.

Frank Onyeka was on hand to intercept a cross that was headed straight at Evidence Makgopa in the 26th minute. Percy Tau had a wonderful opportunity in the 27th minute after great work in midfield. Tau could have done better, but his shot was tame and straight at Nwabali.

Tau had the pace to get away from Troost-Ekong in the 34th minute, but he overran the ball for Nwabali to claim. Alex Iwobi saw an opening, but he shot straight at Williams. Nwabali made a diving left-handed save from Makgopa in the 39th minute as Bafana Bafana continued to threaten. Osimhen rose highest but headed wide as the half ended scoreless.

Second Half and extra time

The Eagles were better in the second half, and Osimhen was well tackled just a minute into the half. Nwabali raced out of his goal to clear the danger as Tau threatened to race away. Aina was the next Super Eagle to check Tau in the box in the 53rd minute. Moses Simon was well marshalled by Khuliso Johnson Mudau, but the Nigerian forward won a corner kick.

Osimhen failed to get a header on target in the 58th minute after a great cross from Osayi-Samuel. Lookman waltzed his way to the edge of the box to tee up Frank Onyeka, who blasted wide. Osimhen was then taken down in the box by Mothobi Mvala for a penalty. William Troost-Ekong took the kick and rolled his effort under Ronwen Williams. Makgopa swivelled on the edge of the box and sent his effort just wide of the left post in the 74th minute as South Africa pushed for an equaliser.

The Eagles thought they had a second goal in the 84th minute after a fast counter, which saw Osimhen tap in at the far post from a cross by Osayi-Samuel. But VAR stopped the celebration as it sent Egyptian referee Amin Mohamed Omar to the screen. The goal was correctly ruled out, and a penalty was awarded for a foul by substitute Alhassan Yusuf on Tau. Mokoena held his nerve and sent Nwabali the wrong way.

Mudau had the chance to win it for South Africa in the fifth minute of added time. Mokoena’s free-kick was parried into the right back’s path, but he got under the ball and played over the bar.The extra time had Nigeria on top, with Williams needing to make a smart save off Osimhen’s long-range shot. Grant Kekana was shown a straight red card in the 25th minute of extra time after he brought down substitute Terem Moffi. The foul was on the edge of the box, and Kelechi Iheanacho played it straight at Williams.

Penalty kicks

The penalty kicks saw South Africa-based Nigerian goalkeeper Nwabali rise to the occasion. Moffi converted the first kick, and Nwabali saved from Mokoena. Aina missed for Nigeria, but Ekong, substitute Kenneth Omeruo, and Iheanacho converted their kicks to send Nigeria through to their eighth AFCON final, 5-3 on aggregate.

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