Nigeria booked their place in the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after defeating South Africa 4-2 on penalties following a 1-1 result in the quarter-final clash at Stade de la Paix in Ivory Coast on Wednesday night.
Mossi scored the first penalty for the Super Eagles but Teboho Mokoena missed the first kick for South Africa as goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali saved the kick. Omeruo then scored Nigeria’s second and Mayambela converted for Bafana.
Ola Aina then missed Nigeria’s first penalty after blasting the ball over the bar, but Nwabali denied Evidence Makgopa a chance to level the scores as he saved his kick. Captain William Troost-Ekong then smashed in for Nigeria before Mothobi Mvala scored for Bafana to keep them in the game. However, second half substitute Kelechi Iheanacho scored the decisive kick to take the Super Eagles to the final.
Before the fixture, the Super Eagles received a major boost after striker Victor Osimhen was declared fit to start and he was a threat from kickoff as he got onto the ball in the box and was about to pull the trigger when Bafana defender Mokoena made a last-ditch tackle to clear the ball.
Nigeria continued to dominate the game and in the seventh minute Frank Onyeka picked up the ball in a good area on the right and flashed a cross into the South African box, but the ball rolled out for a throw-in as there was no Super Eagles’ player to deal with it.
In the 13th minute, South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams was forced to make a save after Ola Aina swung in a cross from the left, but the Mamelodi Sundowns custodian reacted quickly to use his fit and clear it with Osimhen lurking just behind him. Eight minutes later, another chance fell to the Super Eagles, Ademola Lookman was bundled over from behind by Makgopa inside South Africa but his resultant free-kick from about 30 yards out was dealt with by Stanley Nwabali.
In the second half, South Africa almost broke the deadlock when Percy Tau found himself with a lot of space inside Nigeria’s danger zone but his weak effort went inches wide. Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro made his first changes in the 62nd minute; Alex Iwobi and Simon came off for Samwel Chukwueze and Pigui.
A minute later, the Super Eagles won a penalty after Osimhen was brought down inside the box by defender Mothobi Mvala. Defender William Troost-Ekong stepped up to convert it right down the middle under the legs of Williams, who dived to his left for the opener.
In the 87th minute, Nigeria thought they had doubled their lead when Osimhen tapped home from cross range but the referee was forced to review an earlier incident using VAR and cancelled the goal and instead awarded a penalty to South Africa. Substitute Pigui was adjudged to have fouled the advancing Tau before Nigeria’s counterattack.
Mokoena took up the honours to take the penalty and he levelled matters for Bafana Bafana after he smashed it to the left corner with keeper Nwabali diving to the right. The equaliser left Nigeria rocked – from thinking they were two nil up to being pegged to 1-1.
In the 109th minute, South Africa breathed a sigh of relief after Nigeria’s danger man Osimhen was withdrawn for Terem Moffi. South Africa were then reduced to 10 men when Grant Kekena was shown a straight red card for a foul on Moffi, who was making his AFCON debut for Nigeria.
Nigeria XI: Nwabali, Aina, Ekong, Ajayi, Bassey, Osayi-Samuel, Onyeka, Iwobi, Lookman, Simon, Osimhen.
Subs: Uzoho, Alhassan, Musa, Aribo, Chukwueze, Iheanacho, Onuachu, Awziem, Omeruo, Moffi, Onyedika.
South Africa XI: Williams, Kekana, Xulu, Mvala, Modiba, Mokoena, Sithole, Zwane, Mudau, Makgopa, Tau.
Subs: Mobbie, Mashego, Appollis, Adams, Monare, Mothwa, Lepasa, Sibisi, Mayambela, Goss, Morena.