CHAN: Nigeria beat Morocco in a seven goals thriller to go to semis
Nigeria produced one of the greatest come backs in football in history when they came behind from 3-0 down to beat Morocco 4-3 after extra-time in the quarter-final of the CAF African Nations Championship on Saturday evening at the Cape Town Stadium.
Morocco went to the half-time leading 3-0, thanks to a first-half brace by Mohsine Moutaoli and a goal another goal by Mouhssine Iajour. Ugonna Ozochukwi scored for Nigeria early in the second-half before Rabiu Ali scored the second and Chistantus Ejike sent the tie to extra-time with a thunderous shot in the dying minutes of the match.
Second-half substitute Abubacar Ibrahim scored the all important winning goal in the second-half of extra 30 minutes to make sure Nigeria are the first team to book a place in the semi-final of the tournament.
Morocco started the match better of the two sides and they almost opened the scoring when their striker Mouhssine Iajour connected with a through ball in the area before forcing a great save from Chigozie Agbim from an acute angle barely two minutes into the match.
The North Africans continued to pile pressure on the Nigerians, with winger Abdelkbir El Ouadi proving to be dangerous on the left hand flank. Nigeria never troubled the Morocco goalkeeper in goal for the opening twenty minutes, the closest they came to scoring was when a Rabiu Ali’s delivery from a free-kick looked dangerous but the Moroccan defence cleared the danger after 23 minutes.
Nigeria were lucky again not to go a goal down after Morocco came threatening again in the 27th minutes when Fatah Said’s through ball found Mouhssine Iajour inside the area but the Rajar Casablanca’s hit-man saw his left-footed strike go whisker wide of the mark.
Five minutes later, Morocco’s good start to the match paid off when they opened the scoring against a run of play. Abdelkbir El Ouadi charged to goals and passed Mohsine Moutaoali unmarked in the area and the midfielder lobbed the ball over onrushing Chigozie Agbim and into the net, 1-0.
The Super Eagles wasted a golden opportunity to get level when a cross from the right found Ifeanyi Ede unmarked in the area but the striker could only blast the ball over the bar two minutes later. The Nigerians were made to regret the chance they missed in the 37th minutes when the Lions of Atlas found the second goal.
Nigeria defender Bright Eseme fouled Mouhssine Iajour just outside the area to concede a free-kick in the dangerous spot. The fouled striker steeped up and curled a shot to beat Chigozie Agbim in the near post to make the score 2-0.
The two goal cushion looked not to be enough as Morocco struck the third five minutes before the break. Mouhsinne Iajour, who was on the left hand side, found Abdelkbir El Ouadi in the area, but the winger was unselfish and passed the ball to Mohsine Moutaoali who unleashed a shot from the edge of the area that found its way in off the inside of the post to hand himself a brace and send his side 3-0 up to the half-time.
Whatever was said by Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi in the half-time talk looked have worked for the as his men as they pulled a goal back four minutes into the second-half. Ifeanyi Ede found Ugonna Uzochukwi just outside the area and the winger struck from 20-yards unbalanced to beat Nadir Lamyaghri at full stretch in goal, 3-1.
In the 55th minutes, the match looked to be a thrilling encounter as Nigeria scored another goal to reduce the deficit to one goal. A cross from the right-back Erhun Obanor found Ifeanyi Ede in the area, who rose the highest to head the ball down for Rabiu Ali to hit a first-time effort past the goalkeeper, 3-2.
Morocco wasted a glorious chance to net the fourth when Abdelkbir El Ouadi’s cross from the left found Abdessamad Rafik who did well to head the ball on target only for Chigozie Agbim to produce a terrific save to keep his side in the match just past the half-hour mark.
The Super Eagles almost equalised with 25 minutes remaining but second-half substitute Abubacar Ibrahim saw his curling shot from inside the area go narrowly over the bar. Then Chigozie Agbim made sure his side doesn’t concede again when he kept out a 25-yards free-kick by Issam Erraki in the 70th minutes.
When the match looked to be heading for conclusion and Morocco winning the match, Chistantus Ejike had other ideas in the 90th minutes when he unleashed a long range shot that found its way in off the underside of the bar to give the goalkeeper Nadir Lamyaghri no chance and force the match to extra-time, 3-3.
The Nigerians started the extra 30 minutes the better of the two sides and they almost scored the fourth in the 100th minutes but Rabiu Ali saw his header go whisker wide with the goalkeeper well beaten after a clever cross by Chistantus Ejike.
The Super Eagles continued to pile the pressure in the second 15 minutes of the extra-time and they found made it 4-3 in the 110th minutes when Chistantus Ejike sent in a cross from the right that Nadir Lamyaghri failed to hold onto and Abubacar Ibrahim was there to steal the ball and slot into an empty net to send the African champions to the last four of the competition.
Morocco: Lamyaghiri, Hachimi, Abarhoun, Oulhaj, Karrouchy, Moutaouali (El Bahri 75’), Erraki, Said (Achchakir 59’), El Ouadi, Iajour, Rafik (Mobaraky 101’).
Nigeria: Agbim, Obanor, Odunlami, Egwuekwe, Esemi, Ejike, Ali, Shehu, Ozuchukwu, Salami, Ede (Ibrahim 64’)