By Ayodele Odumade
Victor Moses scored two late penalties for Nigeria to book Nigeria’s place in the quarter final of the African Cup of Nations. For long periods of the game, they appeared clueless and gave the Ethiopians much encouragement.
In the 4th minute, Victor Moses saw his free kick saved by Sisay Bancha. In the 16th minute, Dawit Estifanos took a corner which was headed over by Saladin Said.
In the 21st minute, Victor Moses put a free kick into the box but Ikechukwu Uche headed over. Three minutes later, Uche laid the ball into the path of Elderson Echiejile but he shot over.
In the 34th minute, an Echijile header from a Moses corner was saved.
The 44th minute saw a controversial moment of the game. Biadgelegn Elias who was already on a yellow card cynically brought Mikel Obi down. However the referee did not show him a second yellow card, which would have seen him sent off and giving Nigeria a numerical advantage.
On a number of occasions, in the first half, the Ethiopians put balls into the back post where their players were left unmarked but they failed to take advantage.
Right on half-time, Kenneth Omeruo got on the end of a cross into the box but he could not keep his shot down and it flew over the bar. The score remained goal-less at half time.
In the 50th minute, Getaneh Kebede put a cross into the box, which was intended for Saladin but Omeruo cut the cross out for a corner. A minute later Omeruo then went down the other end to get on the end of a Moses corner but he headed over.
In the 64th minute, Omeruo saw his header from a corner cleared off the line. A minute later Sunday Mbah saw his shot saved by Bancha.
In the 79th minute, Moses was brought down by Alulu Girma. The referee pointed to the spot and awarded Nigeria a penalty. Moses sent the keeper the wrong way from the penalty spot to give Nigeria the lead.
Two minutes later, Ethiopia nearly equalised as Saladin headed a cross but Vincent Enyeama pulled off an excellent save and probably saved Nigeria from being eliminated.
In the 84th minute, Bancha brought Moses down and was shown the second yellow card and Nigeria was awarded another penalty. Addis Hinsta had to go in goal as Ethiopia had made their three substitutions.
Moses composed himself and hit the penalty low to the right of the keeper, who guessed where the ball was going but he could not save it as Moses doubled Nigeria’s lead.
In the 94th minute, Kebede hit his shot wide from a cross.
As the referee blew the final whistle, there was relief for Stephen Keshi who not only qualified Nigeria for the quarter finals but also gained his first victory at the African Cup of Nations at the 9th attempt.
Nigeria flattered to deceive for most of the game and did not show any of the form that once made them a force not only in Africa but also on the world stage. The one bright spark for Nigeria was Victor Moses who although was clearly not fit came up with two moments of magic, which brought the two penalties for Nigeria and he converted both kicks.
Nigeria now knows that they will play Ivory Coast in the quarter final on Sunday. It would be a tough task for them and Ivory Coast will start as favorites in this game. For Nigeria to stand any chance of topping the Ivorians, they would need to go up several gears and improve on their lethargic performances so far in this tournament.
Nigeria will worry about that later though but for now, they will be relieved that they qualified and were saved from the embarrassment of elimination at the group stage.
In the other game, Burkina Faso was held to a goalless draw by Zambia. However, Burkina Faso topped the group based on a superior goal difference in comparison to Nigeria. Zambia was eliminated at the group stages as defending champions, which would be an embarrassment for them. It just goes to show that a year is a long time in football and the African Cup of Nations is one of the hardest tournaments to win - let alone retain, except you are Egypt!