By Babajide Alaka
Nigeria’s Super Eagles finally booked their Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final place with a 2-0 victory against the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia on Tuesday in Rustenburg. Victor Moses was the hero of the day as he won and converted the two penalties that won the game.
The kickoff was taken by the white-clad Super Eagles and they swooped on the Ethiopians, who appeared cagey in the opening minutes. Efe Ambrose had the chance to repeat his Liberia heroics, but his header went wide.
Another chance came soon after that with Victor Moses’ free kick deflecting into the hands of the Ethiopian goalkeeper. Ikechukwu Uche went through on goal in the fourth minute but keeper Sisay made a diving stop at the feet of the striker.
Ethiopia showed their first intent in the 15th minute when star striker Said Saluhdin headed wide. The Ethiopians were playing the classic counter attack, leaving the midfield to the Eagles. The Walya Antelopes had the better of corner kicks in the first half with four, but could not make any count.
In the 24th minute, a good passing move from the Eagles saw Uche pass to Elderson Echiejile, who skied his shot. He also had another chance in the 34th minute off a corner kick from Moses, but the goalkeeper parried.
Said caught the Eagles defence napping in the 29th minute but his shot squirmed off his boots into Vincent Enyeama’s grateful gloves. The first half ended dourly as the game settled into a game of cat and mouse with the Ethiopians waiting to catch the Eagles on the counter or through set pieces.
The second half started with the Ethiopians on the front foot as Estifinos shot from 30 yards, but the effort was tame.
With 25 minutes gone in the second half, Sunday Mba got a yellow card for a lunge. Afterwards Fegor Ogude collected his second yellow card of the first round to rule him out of the quarter-final.
Redemption finally came for the Eagles in the 78th minute when Moses was scythed down in the box for the penalty which he took and calmly rolled to the left side of Sisay for the Eagles to take the lead.
Three minutes later, Enyeama made a great save off a Seid header that seemed destined to be the equaliser. Mikel Obi was given a yellow card for a foul on the edge of the box and on the break away; Moses rounded Sisay, who brought him down for another penalty kick.
Ethiopia had to convert Adnan into an emergency goal keeper to face Moses who kicked to the makeshift keeper’s right to record his second goal of the game and of the tournament.
Five Nigerian players were a caution away from missing the quarter final but only Ogude will now miss the confrontation with the Didier Drogba led Cote d’Ivoire on Sunday in Rustenburg.