Saturday, 03 February 2024 04:47

Nigeria’s Super Eagles soar into 2023 AFCON semifinal at Angola’s expense. This is how it happened

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The Super Eagles put up a professional performance to eke out a 1-0 win over surprise quarterfinalists Angola. A first half goal from Ademola Lookman, his third in the tournament, was all the Nigerians needed to book their place in the semi-final for the 16th time, where they will take on DR Congo or Guinea, who play the second quarterfinal later on Friday night.

Stanley Nwabali was fit enough to start in goal, and coach Jose Peseiro went with the same team that defeated Cameroon. Nwabali kept his fourth consecutive clean sheet to become the third Nigerian goalkeeper to keep four consecutive clean slates at the AFCON after Best Ogedegbe in 1980 and Ike Shorunmu in 2002.

The Eagles could have scored in the first minute with a loose ball in the Angola box, but Frank Onyeka’s shot was blocked after Ademola Lookman failed to get the ball on target. The Palancas Negras threatened immediately after through Agostinho Mabululu, but Nwabali diverted his shot for a corner kick.

In the 23rd minute, Osimhen threatened with a header, but Antonio Signori held on. The Napoli forward had another chance for a header in the 35th minute, but he glanced the ball out. Angola pushed back and won back-to-back corners in the 36th and 38th minutes.

And then Lookman struck. Moses Simon sped past Kialonda Gaspar, and with Osimhen’s run taking away other defenders, Lookman rifled the ball past Signori into the roof of the net. The Eagles created another goal-scoring chance in the third minute of added time in the first half, but Zaidu Sanusi dithered in the box and lost the opportunity to cross.

Nigeria had more ball possession in the first stanza, more shots on target, and comfortable control of the contest.

The second half saw Angola coach Soares Goncalves introduce Zini for Estrela as the Angolans sought new ways to breach the Eagles’ resilient defence. Osimhen teed up Alex Iwobi on the edge of the Angola box, but his shot was blocked for a corner kick. Sanusi had a shooting chance, but his shot was wide off target.

In the 59th minute, Angola produced their best goal-scoring chance after Iwobi had turned over possession. Fredy, quiet all evening, slid the ball through the Nigerian defence, and Zini was one-on-one with Nwabali, but his shot struck the post, and Ekong cleared the immediate danger.

Simon weaved past two Angola defenders on the hour, but his shot was blocked as the Eagles tried to find a second insurance goal. Sanusi played his free-kick over the wall, but it was tame and comfortably gathered by Signori. The Eagles thought they had that second goal in the 75th minute, but Osimhen had strayed marginally offside before heading past Signori.

VAR drew their lines, and Osimhen’s wait for a second AFCON goal continued. In the 81st minute, Lookman fed Osimhen, who created a shooting chance, but his shot was blocked. Nwabali was called to make two saves as the Eagles held on for their fourth consecutive clean sheet and a place in the semifinal, the 16th in the country’s history.



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