Nigeria are through to the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations after beating South Africa via penalties at the Stade la Paix in Bouake on Wednesday, Soccernet.ng reports.
Both teams played out a 1-1 draw after full-time and extra time but Nigeria sealed a 4-2 victory on penalties to advance to the final.
The two nations got their goals through penalty during regulation time with Captain William Troost-Ekong netting for Nigeria before Mokoena equalised for South Africa.
Nigeria, however, kept their nerves during the penalty shootout as Kelechi Iheanacho scoring the final penalty to send the Super Eagles to their first AFCON final since 2013.
How it happened
Head coach Jose Peseiro made one change to the side that defeated Angola 1-0 in the quarterfinals, with Zaidu Sanusi making way for Bright Osayi-Samuel.
Ola Aina moved to take up the left wing-back role, with Osayi-Samuel occupying the opposite flank.
Nigeria looked to press the Bafana Bafana high up the pitch, but the best of the early chances fell to the South Africans.
However, the Nigerian defence stood firm with some last-ditch tackles, and goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali made a fantastic one-handed save from a curling Evidence Makgopa shot.
With Moses Simon and Ademola Lookman struggling on the ball and South Africa breaking Nigeria’s lines with ease, it appeared like the worst Super Eagles performance at the AFCON.
South Africa would have only themselves to blame for not capitalising on any of the chances they created as the first half ended goalless.
Nigeria came out of the dressing room with a bit more impetus as Osimhen saw a header go wide, and Onyeka flashed an effort into the stands after good work from Lookman.
In the 65th minute, Osimhen wrought his magic, weaving his way into the box before drawing a penalty from Mokoena.
Goalkeeper Ronwen Williams saved four penalties for South Africa in their shootout win over Cape Verde, but he had no answer to Troost-Ekong’s well-placed shot.
It was Troost-Ekong’s second goal at AFCON 2023 – the other was a penalty against Cote d’Ivoire – and his second goal against South Africa, having netted the winner when both teams met at the 2019 edition.
The goal returned confidence into Nigeria’s play, and with Samuel Chukwueze and Alhassan Yusuf sent onto the pitch, the Super Eagles were poised for a second goal.
South Africa, however, came close to equalising when Makgopa found a bit of space on the edge of the box, but the 23-year-old striker’s shot narrowly screamed past the goalpost.
Drama followed with barely ten minutes left to play. Victor Osimhen scored from a pass from Osayi-Samuel pass, but while Nigeria celebrated, VAR ruled off the goal and awarded a penalty to South Africa for an early foul on Percy Tau.
Mokoena made no mistake from 12 yards out, sending Nwabali the wrong way.
It was the first goal Nigeria conceded since their 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea on matchday one.
South Africa had found their second wind and created a flurry of chances, but Nigeria escaped on each occasion.
Full-time scores stood at 1-1, and the game entered extra time.
There were tired legs all over, but Nigeria pushed up front, and Lookman drove one towards goal but met goalkeeper Williams in top shape.
Goal-mouth action was few and far between, but Osimhen did brilliantly to sting Williams’ palms with a smart shot.
The two teams swapped places after 15 minutes, and Nigeria settled quicker, but Osimhen headed wide from a fantastic Aina cross.
Nigeria had a second penalty shout, but VAR ruled the foul was just outside the box, and the referee showed a red card to defender Kekana.
From the resultant freekick, Iheanacho fired into the waiting arms of goalkeeper Williams.
Despite boasting a man advantage, Nigeria could not find the winner as the game went into the penalty shootout.
Substitute Terem Moffi scored first for Nigeria while Mokoena missed his kick.
Omeruo got it spot on but the Super Eagles gave up their advantage when Aina blew his kick wide.
Nwabali, however, came to Nigeria’z rescue when he saved Makgopa’s kick.
Troost-Ekong, like he did earlier in the match, made no mistake with his kick. Kelechi Iheanacho then sent Nigeria to the final with his expertly taken penalty.