Goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali’s penalty shootout heroics helped Super Eagles of Nigeria beat South Africa to reach the final of AFCON in Bouaké on Wednesday, www.aclsports.com reports.
In a tense semifinal match played at Stade de la Paix, Nigeria prevailed on penalties after it finished 1-1 at the end of regulation time.
Super Eagles of Nigeria started the game with the same vigour they played Angola in the previous round, while the South Africans took their time to study things before seizing control.
Goalkeeper Nwabali and his South African counterpart Ronwen Williams were the talking points ahead of this semifinal fixture and the former was the busiest in the opening half.
Jose Peseiro’s men relied on setpieces to trouble the Bafana Bafana backline but it failed to come to fruition before the latter wrestled off possesion and started dominating. Just before the break, Nwabali, who later claimed the man of the match award, denied Evidence Makgopa to keep the game level.
After the break, Nigeria woke up to the call and started pusbing for the game’s first goal. Substitutes Samuel Chukwueze and Yusuf Alhassan, who were introduced for Alex Iwobi and Moses Simon, helped stabilize things in the midfield.
Not long after that brief spell, Nigeria were awarded a penalty after Victor Osimhen was brought down in the area just after the hour mark. Skipper William Troost-Ekong stepped up and rolled the ball down the middle for Nigeria’s lead. Nigeria tried to sit back after going infront but Bafana Bafana upped the intensity in the final moments.
In a late dramatic end to the game, Nigeria thought they had sealed the game when Osimhen turned home a cross from Bright Osayi-Samuel, but after a lengthy VAR check, the goal was chlked off and penalty was awarded to South Africa for a foul on Percy Tau in the build-up. Midfielder Teboho Mokoena sent Nwabali the wrong way to level the score.
No further goals in the game as both teams made changes in extra time to alter the scoreline. Minutes before the end of the game, Nigeria substitute Terem Moffi, who came on for Osimhen in extra-time, ran through on goal but was fouled by Grant Kekana at the edge of the box. After a length VAR check, a freekick was awarded and the Sundowns defender was sent off. Eventually, the game ended without further goals and a penalty shootout was needed to determine the winner.
Goalkeeper Nwabali made two spotkick saves to help the Super Eagles reach their first AFCON final in over decade and will now wait for the winner of Cote d’Ivoire and DR Congo in Sunday’s final in Abidjan.