Extra Time Magic From Nigeria Sends Them To Semis

Okechukwu Gabriel of Nigeria celebrates his goal with teammates during the ACHAN Quarterfinal match between Nigeria and Angola on 28 January 2018 at Grand Stade de Tanger, Tanger, Morocco Pic Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Substitute Gabriel Okechukwu scored a 108th minute winner for Nigeria who came from behind to beat a resilient Angola side 2-1 on Sunday in Tangiers to book a place at the semis.

Angola took an early second half lead through Vladimir Va after Emeka Atuloma’s clearance bounced off him and went past goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa in the Nigeria goal on 55 minutes.

The Super Eagles dominated the close contest and should been in front in the opening minutes when striker Anthony Okpotu raced through on goal with only Angola keeper Landu Mavanga to beat, he instead tried to dribble and went down in the box as Angola cleared the opportunity.

Nigeria Moses Osas bust through the right to send in Emeka Ogbugh whose effort forced a save from the excellent Landu in the Angola goal.

Angola threatened from a corner which saw Braulio Adelio heading just wide off Ezenwa’s goal on 14 minutes. Mano Luis also tried his luck from a distance but failed to trouble Ezenwa.

Veteran Nigeria forward Rabiu Ali missed from close range following a through ball from Solomon Ojo but his under hit chip fell into the hands of Landu.

Ezenwa denied Mano with two successive saves on 34 minutes after Afonso played him through with a clever flicked past into the area only to be denied by the shot stopper, , who was later adjudged Total Man of the Match.

Okpotu who lead Nigeria’s attack missed another opportunity on the stroke of half time with his effort blocked for a corner after Landu fumbled Ojo’s cross in the Angola defence.

Five minutes into the second half, Okpotu missed yet again dragging his right foot shot off target.

Va broke the deadlock when Atuloma’s clearance bounced off his body and over the helpless Ezenwa to give Angola the lead and added pressure on the much fancied Super Eagles.

The Eagles responded with Atuloma releasing a fierce shot just over the goal from distance and Gabriel Okechukwu’s header bouncing against the foot of the post with 15 minutes of normal time remaining.

Ezenwa pulled another top save with time running out for the Super Eagles with an athletic save from Afonso’s powerful strike.

Okpotu finished off Rabiu Ali’s header past Landu to draw Nigeria level and force the game to extra time much to the delight of their fans.
Okechukwu secured Nigeria a place in Wednesday’s semi-final in Marrakech against Sudan with an solo effort drifting infield from the right skipping away from a couple of Angola challenges before firing low past Landu to win it.

Speaking after the match,  Nigeria head coach was relieved by the win and particularly singled out Okpotu for his impressive displays.

“Today’s game was the most difficult for us in the tournament as we fought for 90 minutes against a good team. We never lost faith in our players because we were creating chances and the more you do that the chances of scoring are higher,” said Yusuf.

“I’m so confident about Anthony Okpotu and we believe in him and he has been scoring despite missing some chances but he will be much better in the coming matches.”

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