29 January 2013

Nigeria/Ethiopia: Moses Sends the Super Eagles to the Quarterfinals

Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Chelsea's Victor Moses scored both Nigeria's goals off penalties.

Two goals from the penalty spot by Victor Moses sent the Super Eagles of Nigeria to the quarterfinals of the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations.

Nigeria beat a tenacious Ethiopian side 2-0 at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg. The results mean that Stephen Keshi's charges will get another opportunity to impress at this Africa Cup of Nations.

Five minutes before the fulltime whistle, the Super Eagles were awarded their second penalty on the night after Ethiopia keeper, Bancha Sisay Basa brought down Moses on the box. The keeper was given his marching orders with a red card. Moses scored from the spot.

This was a turning point for Nigeria who had endured some nervous moments before they had scored the second goal that gave them a cushion. Moses had earlier converted another penalty for the Nigerians when he was brought down by Alula Mekonnen on the 77thminute.

Nigeria dominated ball possession throughout the match. The Super Eagles might have won the three points, but Ethiopia won hearts in Rustenburg. They laboured hard throughout the game and never allowed Nigeria space and time on the ball.

Ethiopia was boxing clever. They were not keen to go on a confrontation with Nigeria but rather relied on counter attacks and dead ball scenarios.

The first half was characterised by a lack of goal-scoring opportunities from both sides. In the infant stages of the game, Nigeria had shown promise with some impressive passes, but when they resorted to long balls, Ethiopia dealt with them with confidence.

The best chance for the Super Eagles in the first half came at the stroke of half-time when defender, Josia Meruo found himself unmarked in Ethiopia box. He lost his composure and subsequently his strike was off target.

Before that moment, Nigeria had another chance when on the 20thminute Chelsea forward, Moses curled free-kick to find Ikwechukwu Uche, but the striker couldn't compose himself. His header went wide. Had Uche realised that he was unmarked and had more time to pick his spot, the results might have been different.

Eight minutes to the break, Uche powered a header that troubled Ethiopian keeper, Bancha Basa but on second attempt, the Ethiopian hang onto the ball. It took Nigeria 20 minutes into the second half to have a close shot at goal of the second stanza, but the Ethiopians were equal to the task.

Ethiopia, like Cape Verde, have played with guts and passion during this tournament. They landed in South Africa as an unfacied outfit minus any big stars, but they gave a good account of themselves. In their first match, they fought back gallantly to claim a draw with reigning African champions, Zambia in Nelspruit. They depart with their heads held high.

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