Nigeria and Angola gave fans and supporters of African football something to remember as they played a nervy quarter final encounter inside Grand Stade Ibn Batouta in Tangier, Morocco.
Both side looked ready for the all important tie as the Home based Eagles of Nigeria almost took the lead from the blast of the whistle but for Anthony Okpotu’s failure to grab the opener.
Angola found succor in Okpotu’s misfiring in front of goal as he was set up more than thrice to put his side ahead. The Palancas Negras therefore gained confidence, stringed passes together and pressured the Eagles which paid off when Timothy Danladi’s clearance hit oncoming Vladamir Felix to beat Nigeria’s number one shot-stopper Ikechukwu Ezenwa.
However, Anthony Okpotu who was the man on every Nigerian lip levelled for his side at the brink of regulation time before substitute Gabriel Okechukwu grabbed the winner which sent Nigeria through to the semi final in Marrakech.
Here are what we learned from the match:
It was a day for injuries: Prior to kick off, we were aware of the injury worries in the squad which includes Ifeanyi Ifeanyi and Daniel James. These were key members of Coach Salisu Yusuf’s team. In the match proper, Kalu Orji, the teams cool, calm and collected central defender was stretched out which left the defense line a bit shaky. Would he be missed? Only time shall tell, if he Orji returns to the team ahead of Sudan tie on Wednesday. Sunday Faleye who has been in blistering form for the side had to be substituted owing to an injury he sustained on his arm. Chukwudiebube Ogbugh also got inured in the second half and could not continue.
Newcomers performance: Left foot back, Ikouwem Utin was having his first match in the championship. He proved to be a good replacement for the spot as well as registered himself in the heart of the technical crew and the fans that he can play when called upon. The goal scorer, Gabriel Okechukwu also had his first match, and with his goal separating both side, you cannot but agree with his choice instead of Mustapha Ibrahim who has been a regular substitute for the Eagles.
When will Nigeria solve the goal scoring problem: The one worry the team has had since the beginning of the championship is scoring abilities. But for poor finishing, the Eagles might have equaled the scoring form of the Moroccans. Against Rwanda, the team failed to convert loads of scoring opportunities, Libya tie also came with its chances too. Could it be that the team’s scoring is dependent on Anthony Okpotu only, that is, when he doesn’t score, the team may not win.
Ikechukwu Ezenwa Factor: Voted man of the match, the Nigerian shot-stopper indeed rose to the occasion and saved his side from the imminent embarrassment. The Angolans kept calling but Ezenwa’s resilience in goal especially in the one on one situations helped sustained the match within reach.
Both sides went for it:
Booking a spot in the last eight did not come easy for both side, hence it was tale of eat or you get eaten up. The Eagles started like they wanted to win it as early as possible, but could not hit the back of the net. With ten minutes into the match, the Angolans came alive, attacked and showed they were not fringe players. They were yet to concede a goal in the championship after three matches and were battle ready.
Adopted Fans support: Nigeria had found a home in Tangier after playing two matches in the group stage at Stade Ibn Batouta. On the day, it appeared both Nigeria and Angola had fair share of support from the home fans. They both enjoyed equal chants, but the winner eventually had the most shout.
IMAGE CREDIT: CAFONLINE.COM