CHELSEA forward, Victor Moses yesterday powered Nigeria to the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations, with two penalty goals that sealed a difficult 2-0 win over the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia in Rustenburg.
On a night that everything appeared to be going wrong for the Eagles, it was the 22 year-old Moses, who rose from the ashes of impending shame to draw two penalty kicks, which he expertly converted to send the Coach Stephen Keshi-tinkered team to the last eight, where they might possibly face tournament favourites, Ivory Coast on Sunday.
Nigeria supporters celebrate their team's 2-0 win over Ethiopia on January 29, 2013 after a 2013 African Cup of Nations Group C football match at the Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg. AFP PHOTO
Desirous of results, Keshi started with Efe Ambrose, Kenneth Omeruo, Giodfrey Oboabona, Elderson Echiejile in defence, while the trio of Jon Mikel Obi, Fegor Ogude and Sunday Mba, operated in the defence. Emmanuel Emenike, Ikechukwu Uche and Victor Moses were in attack.
With these players, fans were looking forward to a goals feast but instead of that, all they got was a slow game and wasted opportunities. Uche was the worst culprit, followed by Emenike. They simply lacked the killer instinct to wear down the Ethiopian defence.
Mba was pushing forward from midfield while Ehtiopia played 4-4-2, with a diamond in midfield, Saladin and Omod upfront.
In the first half, pressure was on Ethiopia but they held firm. Nigeria got 66 percent possession and 4 shots on target while Ethiopia had zero shot on target. With scores still goalless , the pressure was really on Nigeria.
Aware that his cookies were about to crumble, Keshi took out the ineffective Uche and Emenike, replacing them with, Ahmed Musa and Brown Ideye, respectively. And the changes seemed to spark the Eagles into life again as it allowed Moses to take a more central position in the attack to torment the Ethiopians as Nigeria sought last minute goals.
As the clock approached the 79min mark, Moses went on a attacking run, changing his pace and was hacked down by defender Alula Girma, leaving the Moroccan referee with no choice than to call for a penalty.
The Chelsea man picked himself up and calmly converted the spot kick to bring Eagles back to life.
Moses was not done with his yeoman job. He was certainly smelling Ethiopian blood now.. In one of his rampaging ruins, he sliced his way into the Ethiopian box and was felled for the second time by goalkeeper Sasay Bancha,
Bancha got his second yellow card and was subsequently shown a red. It had gone from bad to worse for Ethiopians, who had made all three substitutions.
Moses was again the man tasked with converting the spot-kick. It takes plenty of composure to keep your head after such a long enforced break, but Moses showed it in abundance. He fired into the bottom-left corner, which sealed Nigeria's passage to the quarterfinal.
On a night when all the other big boys failed, Moses delivered Nigeria.