Nigeria’s home based Super Eagles survived an early scare to record a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Equatorial Guinea at the African Nations Championship on Tuesday.
Striker Secundino Yanga headed home a corner five minutes before the break to give the already eliminated Equatorial Guinea a shock lead but Nigeria responded in emphatic fashion after the break.
Striker Anthony Okpotu headed Nigeria level four minutes after the break before Dayo Ojo hit home a scorching effort ten minutes later. Substitute Rabiu Ali the scored from the penalty spot seven minutes from time.
The victory confirms Nigeria as Group C leaders and will return to Tangier for their quarter final game on Sunday. 2014 winners Libya finished second behind Nigeria after they left it late to beat Rwanda 1-0 in Tangier. El-Mutasem Abushnaf scored the winner deep into stoppage time to send Libya through.
Eagles coach Salisu Yusuf made a solitary change to the side that beat Libya 1-0 last Friday as he opted to rest the tired legs of Rabiu Ali in favour of Dayo Ojo who would fatefully win the Man of the Match award on Tuesday night.
Equatorial Guinea were already out of the tournament and were expected to play second best to the Nigerians. Rodolfo Bodipo men sat back for most of the half, hoping to catch Nigeria on hopeful and half-hearted counter attacks.
Dayo Ojo almost put Nigeria in front within ninety seconds of the start but his volley after Okpotu teed him up flew high and over the bar. Nigeria from then on took control of possession but failed to create any scoring opportunity.
The Eagles were stunned on forty minutes when an unmarked Secundino Yanga powered home Miguel Ngomo’s right wing corner. The rude shock of the stunner stirred the Eagles and they created their first real opportunity three minutes later but Sunday Faleye inexplicably fired wide from ten yards out.
Nigeria expectedly came out more purposeful in the second half while their opponents resorted to time-wasting tactics – their players taking turns to fall in different parts of the pitch like Sennacherib King of Assyria’s soldiers.
After failing to convert chances within seven minutes of the restart, Nigeria drew level in the 59th minute through under-fire striker Anthony Okpotu. The big number 9 was at the right place to head home an incisive cross from the impressive Osas Okoro to end a good spell for the West Africans.
Yusuf then introduced the reliable Ali three minutes later and it was the Kano Pillars man who teed up Ojo on 69 minutes and the Sunshine Stars midfielder hit a one-time effort with the outside of his boot from 30 yards which flew beyond Beka Pascual in goal for Equatorial Guinea.
Nigeria made victory safe seven minutes from time when Ali converted a spot kick after Ivorian referee Abou Coulibaly adjudged Anthony Okpotu to have been pushed inside the box by substitute Jorge Akapo.
Nigeria will now return to Tangier for their quarter-final game on Sunday where they will face the runners-up in Group C to be determined on Wednesday when Congo face Angola.
Ezenwa; S. Okoro, S. Eze, K. Orji, D. Itodo; E. Atuloma, I. Ifeanyi (R. Ali 62′), E. Ojo; Ogbugh (N. Mohammed 76′), S. Faleye, A. Okpotu (G. Okechukwu 84′)
BOOKED: Stephen Eze (36′)
GOALS: Okpotu 59′ Ojo 69′ Ali 83′ (p)