Cairo — Match winner and Total Man of the Match, Riyad Karim Mahrez, yesterday gave an emotional judgment on the Nigerian team whom he said played beyond their expectation.
The captain of the team said he was delighted to have scored the winning goal that took Algeria to the final of the tournament for the first time since 1990 when they hosted the event and won by a lone goal against Nigeria in Algiers.
"We knew we have an edge over Super Eagles and rightly dominated play for greater part of the first half but things changed in the second half.
"They (Eagles) were more physical in play. Unfortunately, we could not double the lead and things changed against us with the fans rooting for Nigeria. We were lucky to get that last minute free kick and I buried it to the far corner of the net to give my country the ticket to the final.
Mahrez admitted that the Desert Foxes studied and realized that badly positioned Daniel Akpeyi was an edge for him shortly before the last free kick that earned Algeria the ticket.
"I studied the wall and the position of the keeper. The best I can do was to lift and allow the ball travel few meters above the wall and rest in the appropriate corner of the net," the Man City forward revealed at the post match conference..
The free kick was more or less the last kick of the game as the centre referee signaled the end of the match with thousands of Algerian supporters inside the stadium erupted in wild jubilation.
"We are happy not to have let our fans down because we never knew how the extra time will go since Nigerian players were still full of energy. We were stretched earlier in the quarter final match against Côte d' Ivoire," he recalled.
On the final on Friday, Mahrez said he hoped for a good game against Senegal whom they played in the group stage. He however insisted that the setting is different now with so much at stake.
"We hope to win the cup against after a long wait," he concluded with optimism.
Meanwhile, Super Eagles Coach, Gernot Rohr could not hide his dismay following the exit of Nigeria from the AFCON 2019 tournament in Egypt.
"I think my players lost concentration and were actually looking forward to going into extra time but in a match of this magnitude, you don't overlook the micro seconds and this caused my team a big set back.
"The match was a reverse of the match we played against South Africa when the VAR delay eventually worked in our favour after long minutes of wait but today it was ruled in our favour. It is the same thing with the last minute goal that worked against us today.
"Life must go on and I have to go back home and meet with my employer on the next line of action but more importantly, moving forward," explained.