Super Eagles Perch At AFCON Last Four: Ekong Breaks Bafana Bafana's Hearts

Jul 10 - by AFP for SportPesa News

Centre half arrives unmarked in the 89th minute to seal 2-1 victory for Nigeria over South Africa in last eight battle of former champions in Cairo

Nigeria's defender William Ekong celebrates his goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) quarter final football match between Nigeria and South Africa at Cairo international stadium on July 9, 2019. PHOTO/AFP

  • Samuel Chukweze well taken goal in the 27th minute put the Super Eagles in charge at half time and looked set to cruise to the last four until Bongani Zungu hauled Bafana Bafana level in the 71st
  • Centre-back Troost-Ekong then turned home at a corner a minute from time to set three-time champions Nigeria up with a clash against Algeria or Ivory Coast for a spot in the July 19 final
  • A number of promising attacks fizzled out for Nigeria and their lack of precision came back to haunt them when Zungu hauled South Africa level, nodding back across goal after a Percy Tau set-piece was shown upon a video review to have been flicked on by Ighalo

CAIRO, Egypt- William Troost-Ekong bundled in a late winner to help Nigeria grab a slot in the semi finals of the Egypt 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in a nervy 2-1 victory over South Africa in the quarterfinal battle of former champions at the Cairo International Stadium.

Samuel Chukweze well taken goal in the 27th minute put the Super Eagles in charge at half time and looked set to cruise to the last four until Bongani Zungu hauled Bafana Bafana level in the 71st.

With the game of few chances destined for extra time, a lapse in concentration cost Stewart Baxter's side dear when Dutch born centre back Ekong ghosted unmarked to steer a corner into an empty net with a minute to go to full time for the heartbreaking defeat for Bafana who caused a stir when they eliminated holders Egypt in the round of 16.

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Chukwueze fired the Super Eagles ahead in the first half in front of a healthy, largely pro-Nigerian crowd at the 75,000-capacity Cairo International Stadium.

But Zungu's looping header brought South Africa level on 70 minutes, the goal awarded with the aid of VAR -- introduced for the first time at the tournament from the quarter-final stage onwards -- after it was initially ruled out for offside.

Centre-back Troost-Ekong then turned home at a corner a minute from time to set three-time champions Nigeria up with a clash against Algeria or Ivory Coast for a spot in the July 19 final.

Left-back Jamilu Collins made his first appearance in Egypt after shaking off a pre-tournament injury while Villarreal forward Chukwueze came in for Moses Simon in the Nigerian attack.

Baxter stuck with the same side that shocked hosts Egypt in the last round, as match-winner Thembinkosi Lorch retained his place despite Themba Zwane's return from suspension.

Driving force

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Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr had suggested South Africa were favourites in the build-up following their defeat of the record seven-time champions, a tag Baxter promptly rejected with Bafana Bafana's lone competitive win coming in qualifying for these finals.

Odion Ighalo's goals have been the driving force behind Nigeria's run here but it was emerging young forward Chukwueze, coming off a solid debut season in Spain's top flight, who struck just before the half-hour to end the impasse.

Alex Iwobi skipped past a couple of defenders down the left before pulling back for Chukwueze, who swept into the corner as the ball trickled back his way after a first shot was blocked.

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Following a stodgy first half Nigeria appeared the far sharper after the break, Peter Etebo rattling the crossbar with a superb 25-yard- free-kick destined for the top corner but for the fingertips of Ronwen Williams.

A number of promising attacks fizzled out for Nigeria and their lack of precision came back to haunt them when Zungu hauled South Africa level, nodding back across goal after a Percy Tau set-piece was shown upon a video review to have been flicked on by Ighalo.

But after their stunning elimination of Mohamed Salah's Egypt there was to be no follow-up act from South Africa as Williams flapped at an in swinging corner and Troost-Ekong forced over the line to clinch victory for Nigeria.

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COLLATED AFCON QUARTERS RESULTS

At 30 June Stadium, Cairo

Senegal 1 (Gueye 70) Benin 0

At Cairo International Stadium

Nigeria 2 (Chukwueze 27, Ekong 89) South Africa 1 (Zungu 71)

Playing Thursday

At Suez Stadium

Algeria v Ivory Coast (1600 GMT)

At Al Salam Stadium, Cairo

Madagascar v Tunisia (1900 GMT)