Sports

Nigeria, Senegal reach Africa Cup semi-finals

CAIRO, Jul 11 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 7/11/2019 11:44:01 AM IST

Nigeria sneaked into the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals when defender William Troost Ekong scored with one minute remaining to give them a 2-1 win over a gallant South Africa as the tournament served up more drama on Wednesday.

Troost Ekong, left unmarked, turned the ball in with his knee from a corner to leave the South Africans heart-broken after they had fought their way back into the match which seemed to be out of their reach.

Samuel Chukwueze, recalled to the side after missing the previous round, put the Super Eagles in front when he scored at the second attempt in the 27th minute.

Nigeria stayed in control, missed chances and paid the price when Bongani Zungu headed an equaliser in the 71st minute with South Africa’s first shot on target.

The goal was initially ruled offside but then awarded after a VAR check.

Nigeria, who will meet Ivory Coast or Algeria in the last four, went ahead with the first really dangerous attack of the match.

Alex Iwobi burst down the left and pulled the ball back into the area to Chukwueze whose first effort was blocked by a defender but scored after it rebounded back to him.

Nigeria looked too strong all-round for their rivals and nearly extended their lead early in the second half with a 25-metre free kick from Oghenekaro Etebo but Ronwen Williams turned it on the bar.

South Africa struggled to get a look-in but the Super Eagles repeatedly failed to turn the mazy runs of Ahmed Musa and Chukwueze into goals.

Then, from out of the blue, South Africa equalised as Percy Tau lofted a free kick into the area, it was flicked on and superbly headed in by Zungu. It was initially disallowed but then given by a VAR check that took nearly three minutes.

Extra-time was looming until Nigeria won a corner on the left, Williams missed the ball and Troost Ekong prodded it home.

Meanwhile, Senegal’s Idrissa Gana Gueye scored 20 minutes from time to take them through as expected to the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals but their 1-0 victory over minnows Benin, who finished with 10 men, was a largely laboured affair.

Gana Gueye’s goal was one of the few highlights at Cairo’s 30 June Stadium with the midfielder setting up the move and then finishing much to the relief to Africa’s top-ranked team as they struggled to break down their determined opponents.

Gana Gueye, who had possession just outside the centre circle, passed the ball directly forward to Sadio Mane and then sprinted upfield to virtually steal the ball off his team mate and tuck away a neat finish.

Gana Gueye might have had a second goal some eight minutes from time with a similar surging run through the midfield but was pulled back on the edge of the Benin penalty area by defender Olivier Verdon, who was promptly sent off.

Benin had a couple of chances, both falling to 34-year-old striker Mickael Pote, who was narrowly wide with a cheeky backheel in the 26th and should have scored straight after halftime but hit a tame effort straight at keeper Alfred Gomis.

But there was to be no repeat for the small west African country of their heroics in the previous round when they eliminated Morocco in a penalty shootout.

Senegal will feature in the semi-finals for a fourth time but on the first occasion since 2006. 

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