The Super Eagles went three goals down, woke from their slumber and tamed the Atlas Lions after extra-time to grab CHAN semi-final ticketNigeria have secured a place in the semi-final of the African Nations Championship after beating Morocco 4-3 after extra-time in the quarter-final match played at the Cape Town Stadium.
A first half brace from Mohsine Moutaouali and a goal from Iajour Mouhssine ensured Hassan Benabicha's side got a three-goal lead in the first half of the tension soaked encounter but the second half saw goals from Ugonna Uzochukwu, Rabiu Ali and Ejike Uzoenyi on the dot of 90 minutes ensured the game proceeded into extra-time.
However, it was Abubakar Ibrahim’s strike in the second half extra time that made the difference for Stephen Keshi’s side in the seven-goal thriller.
The Super Eagles mounted pressure on the Moroccan defence in the early minutes of the match which saw them play three corners in the opening ten minutes.
Azubuike Egwueke failed to give Nigeria the lead in the 11th minute when his header off Uzoenyi’s cross went over the Atlas Lions' cross bar. Nevertheless, Keshi’s men continued to dominate but lacked the cutting edge when it came to finding the back of the net.
Morocco’s first chance came off Iajour’s simple tap from a well tailored pass received from the midfield after the Eagles lost possession in the middle.
Minutes later, Uzoenyi produced a fine pass to set Gbolahan Salami free down the flank, with the latter supplying a dangerous low ball into the box, allowing Rabiu Ali to fire a tame shot at Nadir Lamyaghrf in the best of the opening exchanges.
Moutaouali slotted home Morocco's opener with a classy finish in the 33rd minute after he received a pass from Fatah Said. Iajour scored the second off a swerving free kick outside Nigeria’s defence after Mouhssine was pushed off the ball by Bright Esieme.
Stephen Keshi’s side rallied following that setback. First, Salami fired a testing effort at Nadir which the Morocco keeper smartly tipped over the bar, before Rabiu Ali’s long range missile that went over the cross bar.
Moutaouali got his brace in the 40th minute following another clever pass from Mouhssine who had a stupendous afternoon.
On resumption of the second half, Nigeria took charge of the game and posed a few problems for the Atlas Lions, and deservedly got their first through Uzochukwu – before Ali got Nigeria’s second six minutes later.
There continued to be chances at both ends. Mohammed Oulha picked up a loose ball from distance before striking on the half volley from 25 yards, only to see Egwuekwe turn it behind. Nigeria then had a shout for a penalty after the ball bounced up on Hachim , but referee Bernard Camille thought otherwise.
The Super Eagles grew in confidence and equalised on 90 minutes through Uzoenyi’s rocket outside the Atlas Lions’ defence which saw the game move into extra time.
While it seemed the game would head for a penalty shoot-out, in second half extra time, Ibrahim pounced to give Nigeria the winner after Morocco goalkeeper and captain, Nadir Lamyaghri spilled an easy ball off Uzoenyi's cross.
Nigeria will now wait for the winner between Ghana and DR Congo in Sunday's quarter final game.