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Nigeria beat South Africa on penalties to reach AFCON final

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Kelechi Iheanacho converted the winning penalty as Nigeria’s Super Eagles held their nerve for a 4-2 shootout win over Nigeria’s Super Eagles to reach the AFCON final.

William Troost-Ekong’s spot-kick in normal time had looked like sending the Super Eagles through without further stress, particularly when Victor Osimhen turned the That goal though was chalked off, and South Africa awarded a penalty of their own for a foul in the build-up. Teboho Mokoena converted to force extra time, and penalties followed.

Mokoena could not repeat the trick in the shootout and while Ola Aina blasted his penalty over the bar, Evidence Makgopa’s miss handed the advantage back to the Super Eagles. Iheanacho had the chance to win it, and did just that to set up a final against either hosts Côte d’Ivoire or the Democratic Republic of Congo in the final on Sunday.

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It was always like to be a nervy semi-final, between two sides who went into the match having kept four consecutive clean sheets at AFCON.

There was little in the way of clear-cut chances before half-time, Evidence Makgopa going as close as anyone when his curling effort was tipped away by Stanley Nwabili.

But Nigeria improved after the break, pushing South Africa back and building the pressure, with Victor Osimhen threatening to open the scoring as he headed over at the back post.

The goal came midway through the second-half, Osimhen unsurprisingly involved. He drifted past the challenges, drove into the box and went down as Mothobi Mvala stuck out a leg and tripped him.

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Captain Troost-Ekong stepped up, to face a goalkeeper in Ronwen Williams who saved four penalties in the South Africa’s quarter-final shootout win over Cape Verde. He could well have saved this one too, but Troost-Ekong’s spot-kick crept underneath him and into the back of the net.

The Super Eagles controlled the match well from that point and thought they had taken doubled their advantage with five minutes remaining, as Osimhen turned the ball home from a couple of yards out after good work from Osayi-Samuel.

But a VAR check deemed that Percy Tau had been fouled in the box at the other end in the build-up, as the referee returned from the monitor to disallowed Osimhen’s goal and award South Africa a penalty in a remarkable turn of events.

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That gave Mokoena the opportunity to equalise and, as the clock ticked into the 90th minute, he made no mistake from the spot.

South Africa piled on the pressure deep into stoppage-time and should really have won it, as Mokoena’s free-kick was parried out and Khuliso Mudau blasted over the rebound with the goal at his mercy.

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Terem Moffi was introduced with ten minutes of extra time remaining, replacing Osimhen, and almost immediately he was clean through on goal. Grant Kekana brought him down just outside the box, and although the referee initially waved play on, the South Africa defender was shown a straight red card after a VAR review.

Bafana Bafana held on to make it to penalties, but they fell agonisingly short in their bid for another upset win, as Nigeria moved a step closer to ending their 11-year wait for AFCON glory.

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