Villarreal prodigy Samuel Chukwueze was named Man of the Match after Nigeria’s Super Eagles defeated South Africa 2-1 to qualify for the semi final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Chukwueze put Nigeria in front in the 27th minute when he finished off Iwobi’s pass after his first attempt was blocked by Thulani Hlatshwayo – it was the first attempt on target in the cautious opening half.
Nigeria continued to trouble the South Africans with Chukwueze’s pace causing them all sorts of troubles on the right flank and captain Ahmed Musa bombing down the left.
The Super Eagles took their lead into the break and never really look ruffled in the second until they were stunned in the 72nd minute through a goal which required validation from the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) which was making its debut at the tournament on Wednesday.
Bongani Zungu’s looping header in the 71st minute stood the test of a two-minute evaluation by the referees in the upper room led by Frenchman Benoit Millot and had the South Africans dreaming again.
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr introduced winger Moses Simon for Musa with just over ten minutes left in the game and the Levante star was instrumental to Nigeria’s winner one minute from time.
His second corner in quick succession was misjudged by South African goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, allowing centre back William Ekong to guide the ball home into an unguarded post.
There could indeed have been an icing on the cake but Chukwueze’s ball across the face of goal after a quick counterattack was a tad heavy for forward Odion Ighalo to finish.
Nigeria held on for their first win over South Africa in five attempts and will stay at the Cairo International Stadium for their semi final game on Sunday. They will face either Algeria or Coted’voire who will face in Suez on Thursday.
Picture credit: Tobi Adepoju OgaNlaMedia
Fisayo Dairo reporting from Cairo