Nigeria secured a place in the semi-finals of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) after dispatching a brave challenge from Palancas Negras of Angola, who got the curtain raiser in the 56th minute.
Nigeria Professional Football League reigning highest goals scorer, Anthony Okpotu and Gabriel Okechukwu struck to seal a win 2-1 over Angola in Tangier yesterday.
After a pulsating 90 minutes in Tangier had ended 1-1, the Akwa United forward - on as a 59th minute substitute for Sunday Faleye, drove home a low cross outside the goal area 19 minutes into extra-time to hand Nigeria the victory after Lobi Stars' Anthony Okpotu had leveled two minutes into added time of the second half.
As early as 20 seconds, Eagles striker Okpotu burst through on goal, but he slipped at the vital moment with only the goalkeeper to beat. It was guilt-edged miss by the forward.
In the ninth minute, it was the turn of Emeka Atuloma to score but the former Heartland midfielder missed from a corner-kick. There was a terrible blow for Nigeria on 13 minutes when Kalu Orji was forced from the field following an ankle injury. Timothy Danladi took his place.
The Palancas Negras weren't afraid to attack and they showed quality. Lanky defender Stephen Eze made a last ditch clearance to prevent Vladimir Va from scoring in the 19th minute. On the half hour, Eagles keeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa produced a great save to keep out Calesso Manu's powerful shot from an acute angle.
The jittery Danladi made a school boy error and almost caused his team to go behind but Ezenwa stood firm to rescue his side. Ezenwa came up twice to trump Calesso Manu.
A timely clearance by Braulio Nary in the last action of the first half ensured that the scoreline was 0-0 at the break.
He cleared off the line to deny Okpotu after the goalkeeper failed to gather a cross with the wind causing all sorts of havoc.
Okpotu spurned a simple chance with the Angolan shot-stopper stranded in the 50th minute and his miss haunted Nigeria afterwards.
Angola opened the scoring in a rather fortunate circumstances as Danladi's attempted clearance canon of Va and into the back of the net. Atuloma tried his luck from range, but the ball was always rising in this wind as the Eagles pressed for the equaliser.
Ezenwa then came to Nigeria's rescue once more. This time to deny Va his second from point-blank range.