By James Agberebi: The home-based Super Eagles fought back from a goal down to beat Angola 2-1 after extra-time in the quarter-finals of the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) inTangier, Morocco on Sunday.
This is the second time the home-based Eagles will be making it to the semi-final since their debut in 2014 in South Africa where they finished third.
Vladimir Va’s goal looked to be enough to send Angola through but Anthony Okpotu scored a late goal to send the game into extra-time.
And in second half extra-time, Ikechukwu Gabriel scored the winner to send Nigeria into the last four.
The Home Eagles should have taken the lead just seconds into the game through last season’s Nigeria Professional Football League top scorer Okpotu, who was played through on goal and was one-on-one with the Angolan keeper Mavanga Landu but lost his footing.
In the seventh minute, Emeka Ogbugh went close for the Eagles but his effort was saved by the Angolan keeper at the near post.
A minute later, the Eagles went close again this time through Emeka Atuloma whose header from a corner went just wide after the Angolan keeper failed to deal with a corner.
The Eagles were forced into an early change on 14 minutes as Orji Kalu went off injured and was replaced by Timothy Danladi.
Angola had their first attempt on goal a minute later through Braullo Nary but his header from a corner went just over the bar.
In the 19th minute, the Angolans broke on the left but Stephen Eze made a superb clearance for a corner.
In the 30th minute, Angola almost took the lead following a superb strike by Calesso Mano inside the box but Ikechukwu Ezenwa produced a brilliant save as he tipped the shot over the bar.
Angola should have taken the lead on 35 minutes through Mano after he was played through on goal but Ezenwa made two brilliant saves to deny the Angolan forward.
On the stroke of half-time, Okpotu should have opened the scoring after the Angolan keeper missed a cross only for his effort cleared off the line.
Okpotu had another chance for the Eagles on 50 minutes after connecting with Sunday Faleye’s long pass only for the Lobi Stars striker to hit his low strike just off target with the keeper off his line.
Angola eventually took the lead in the 55th minute after Danladi’s poor clearance ricocheted off Va and sailed over Ezenwa and into the net.
Angola almost doubled their lead in the 62nd minute from a poor defensive play by the Nigerian but Eze made a vital block with the ball going over the bar.
Ezenwa prevented the Angolans from going 2-0 up on 72 minutes as he quickly came off his line to snatch the ball off with the Eagles defence caught flat-footed.
The Eagles almost drew level on 78 minutes after Gabriel Okechukwu connected with a cross but the ball came off the post and hit the keeper in his face and went away for a corner.
Afonso Fofo should have put day light between them and Nigeria following a counter-attack but once again pulled off a brilliant save.
Nigeria had a big chance to equalise on 85 minutes but once again Gabriel blasted his effort way off target with the keeper to beat.
In the 91st minute, the Eagles equalised thanks to Okpotu who slammed the ball past the Angolan keeper off a flicked header from Ali from a long ball from Osas Okoro to send the game into extra-time.
Early in extra-time, Ali had a chance but hit his long shot way off target.
Ali had another chance to give Nigeria the lead two minutes into extra-time second half but volleyed over the bar from a long pass.
Nigeria went 2-1 up on 110 minutes thanks to Gabriel who beat the Angolan keeper at his far left after brilliant footwork on the edge of the box.
Gabriel almost scored again following a mix-up in the Angolan box but the keeper quickly came off his line to catch the ball.
Okpotu had a chance to put the game to bed in the last minute of extra-time but blasted his effort over the bar.