The home-based Super Eagles of Nigeria has managed to make it to the semifinal after coming from a goal down to beat Angola 2-1 in extra time at the ongoing African Nations Championship (CHAN). The game was 1-1 at the end of the 90 minutes and had to go into extra time. But at the end of 120 minutes of bruising battle with Angola at Stade Ibn Batouta in Tangier, Morocco, Nigeria came out on top leaving the hard fighting Angolans bewildered.
Anthony Okpotu drew Nigeria level in stoppage time after Angola took the lead on 55 minutes. And in extra time, Okechukwu Gabriel grabbed the match winner to send the Home-based Eagles to the last-four stage of the tournament. Nigeria is to meet Sudan who shocked Zambia out of the competition in one of the semifinals on Wednesday.
Without doubt, Nigeria’s goalkeeper, Ikechukwu Ezenwa was the Man of the Match as he pulled off several big saves to ensure Eagles stayed in the reckoning. Eagles victory last night did not come easy for Salisu YYusuf and his wards. Vladimir Vá’s second-half goal had given the Angolans the edge. Before Okpotu got that vital equaliser, he as usual squandered a golden chance to put Eagles in front within the opening 20 seconds of the clash. But, having burst through on goal, the forward slipped at the vital moment with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Having navigated through a relentless spell of pressure, Palancas Negras threatened to make the Home-based Eagles rue their missed opportunities as they gained the upper-hand in the closing stages of the first half. Ezenwa however proved capable as the shot-stopper pulled off three great saves to deny Calesso Manu within the space of six pulsating minutes. Okpotu, though, had another chance to put Nigeria a goal up just short of the break, but Braulio Nary was well positioned to clear off the line after Mavanga Landu misjudged a cross into the area.
The game continued to ebb and flow following the interval with both teams missing further chances before Vá’s opener in the 55th minute. Timothy was unlucky as his attempted clearance cannoned off the Angolan midfielder and into the back of the net. Nigeria surged forward in search of the equaliser, but a place in the final four threatened to slip from their reach as Gabriel squandered two gilt-edged chances in quick succession.
The forward watched on in agony as his header attempt cannoned off the woodwork, onto the Angolan goalkeeper’s head and away from danger in the 77th minute. This was before wasting a shot over the crossbar with only the shot-stopper to beat seven minutes later.
Persistence finally paid dividends for the Nigerians in stoppage time as Okpotu hammered home from close range to send the game into extra-time. Like Okpotu, Gabriel would also make amends as he struck home what would prove to be the winner in the second-half of added time. The forward weaved his way past two Palancas Negras defenders before firing home a left-footed shot into the back of the net from the edge of the area to send the Super Eagles fans into delirium, and Nigeria into the semis.