Iheanacho fires Nigeria to Africa Cup final with 4-2 win on penalties over South Africa


PTI | Abidjan | Updated: 08-02-2024 09:35 IST | Created: 08-02-2024 09:35 IST
Iheanacho fires Nigeria to Africa Cup final with 4-2 win on penalties over South Africa
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Kelechi Iheanacho scored the winning penalty to send Nigeria to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations with a 4-2 shootout victory over South Africa after their semifinal ended 1-1 after extra time.

There were no heroics this time in the penalty shootout from South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, who saved four in the quarterfinal win over Cape Verde.

Nigeria counterpart Stanley Nwabali made two penalty saves on Wednesday to deny the Bafana Bafana a place in the final — diving to the bottom left corner to thwart Teboho Mokoena, then Evidence Makgopa's centrally placed effort.

Nigeria, the three-time champion, will play either host nation Ivory Coast or Congo in Sunday's final. They were playing later in the other semifinal.

The game in Bouaké had barely started when Nigeria star Victor Osimhen doubled over in apparent pain. Osimhen was an injury worry before the game because of abdominal pain, but he was able to resume after a brief pause.

Percy Tau had the first real chance but shot straight at Nwabali, who then had to emerge from goal to grab the ball when Tau burst through minutes later, and produce a brilliant save to stop Makgopa's effort from the top corner.

South Africa dominated possession and created more chances in the first half.

Nigeria got its break midway through the second half when Mothobi Mvala conceded a penalty for a foul on Osimhen.

Nigeria captain William Troost-Ekong coolly fired the spot kick to the center of the goal in the 67th, though Williams almost stopped it with his legs.

Osimhen thought he'd sealed the win in the 85th but the goal was ruled out after a VAR check found Alhassan Yusuf had fouled Tau in the area and South Africa was duly awarded a penalty.

Mokoena made no mistake with the spot kick to equalize in the 90th minute and Khuliso Mudau went on to miss a great chance to seal a South African win in stoppage time.

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