Nigeria netted two late penalties to seal their passage through to the quarter-finals of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in a 2-0 victory over the 10 men of Ethiopia on Tuesday.
It was a deserved win for the Super Eagles, who laboured at times but edged the chances. Their prize for making it through is a meeting with tournament favourites Cote d’Ivoire at the same venue on Sunday.
Ethiopia can have no arguments about the penalty awards and bow out of the competition in last place in their pool. Theirs was a rather limp end to a campaign that promised much after their opening-day draw with defending champions Zambia.
Chelsea star Victor Moses was fouled for both spot kicks and picked himself up on each occasion to slot home, the second past midfielder Addis Hintsa who had been forced to deputise in goal after the regular gloveman, Sasay Bancha, had been red carded.
Moses had been dropped from Nigeria’s opener in this tournament against Burkina Faso. Coach Stephen Keshi suggested he was not match fit but privately there were whispers that his form was not good enough.
However, tonight he was the catalyst for all that was good about Nigeria, his incisive wide play and excellent delivery causing Ethiopia problems from beginning to end.
Super Eagles defender Efe Ambrose should have done better early on when he headed wide at the far post from a Moses pin-point free kick..
Bancha then produced a fine save when Elderson Echiejile got on the end of another Moses delivery, this time a corner, but could not beat the goalkeeper.
Kenneth Omeruo was the next Nigerian player to have a chance, but he blazed over when he should at least have hit the target, before Godfrey Oboabona saw his header cleared off the line by Ethiopian Abebaw Butako.
It was looking as if the game might head for a 0-0 draw that would have seen both sides bow out of the competition, but Nigeria’s pressure finally paid off when Alula Girma brought down Moses in the box on 79 minutes for a clear penalty award. The Premiership star made no mistake with the spot kick.
And Moses had another opportunity just before fulltime when Bancha sent him tumbling with a crude lunge as he broke into the penalty box. The keeper was sent off and with Ethiopia having used all their substitutions, that Hintsa had to take over in goal.
To Hintsa's credit he went the right way with the spot kick, but could not keep Moses’ effort out.