The Nigeria Super Eagles staged the biggest come back from three goals down to defeat the Atlas Lions of Morocco 4-3 in the first quarterfinal match of the 2014 Orange African Nations Championship Saturday.
Three first half goals by the Atlas Lions of Morocco set the tone for an emphatic 3-0 first half humiliation of the Super Eagles.
The coach Stephen Keshi tutored team were a sorry sight as they ran from pillar to post chasing the sleek Moroccans in their stride. From the start, it was evident that the Moroccans meant serious business as they orchestrated several attacks in the Nigerian half. But for the heroics of defence stalwart Azubuike Egwuekwe, the Atlas Lions would have taken the lead earlier than it came.
After a cagy start, the Moroccans stamped their authority in the 27th minute when goalkeeper and captain, Chigozie Agbim stretched to parry a goal bound shot near the post. But it was not for long when Mohsine Moutaoali spotting jersey number 10 struck with a curling volley that beat flat footed Agbim in the 32nd minute.
Gbolahan Salami lost a golden chance to have put Nigeria at par but his effort went off mark. At the Nigerian end, the Moroccans struck again in the 36th minute through Iajour Mouhssine who converted a wonderful free kick from just outside the 18 yard box. The Atlas Lions roared again in the 39th minute with a clinical finish from their number 10 man.
The Eagles were more business-like in the second half as two quick goals from Ogonna Uzochukwu and Rabiu Ali in the 49th and 55th minutes restored Nigeria’s hope in this encounter.
The equaliser came in dramatic fashion when, with the clock of 90 minutes, Ejike Uzoenyi picked the ball on the edge of the area and, after beating two players, unleashed a fierce shot that hit the underside of the bar and nestled in the back of the net.
After forcing an extra time, Uzoenyi continued to threaten the Moroccan defence, seeing one shot saved and providing a chance for Ali in the first period.
However, Nigeria’s winning goal came with eight minutes left as Uzoenyi’s cross was horribly spilled by keeper Nadir Lamyaghri and fell into the path of Ibrahim and, from two yards, had gifted Nigeria a place in the last four.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe stunned favourites Mali 2-1 in an absorbing CHAN quarter-final encounter at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday evening.
The West Africans who took to the pitch having won two and drawn their three group stage matches were outdone by a resolute Warriors team that worked their socks out and were full value for their win.
Ian Gorowa’s side scored in each half and the few chances that Mali created were expertly absorbed by the hardworking Warriors defence, save for the consolation effort in the dying minutes of the match.
They duly took the lead in 10th minute through Simba Sithole who took advantage of the hesitant Mali defence to slot a low shot past Soumaila Diakite.
Mahachi then put the issue beyond doubt when he again out-foxed Malian defence to make it 2-0 in the 54th minute.
Mali scored what proved a consolation goal when substitute Hamidou Sinayoko headed in a close range effort for the 2-1 scoreline in the 87th minute as Zimbabwe celebrated a famous win.