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Nigeria win thriller against Morocco

Nigeria came from three goals down at half-time to beat Morocco 4-3 in extra-time in the African Nations Championship quarter-final played at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday evening.

Nigeria’s goals were scored by Ugonna Uzochukwu, Rabiu Ali, Ejike Uzoenyi and Abubakar Ibrahim while the Morocco goals were scored by a Mohsine Moutaouali brace and one by Iajour Mouhssine.

The game started in frantic fashion as a shot from Mouhssine forced Agbim to make a fine save inside the opening minute, after the Moroccan broke in from the right flank. But Nigeria responded later, when Ugonna Uzochukwu headed a free-kick from Ejike Uzoenyi wide.

A timely block by Obanor prevented Morocco from scoring in the 15th minute through the impressive El Ouadi who shot at goal after a neat one-two with a teammate.

At the other end, Ifeanyi Ede wasted a chance to put Nigeria in front as he chose to shot into the side-netting instead of passing squaring the ball to a better positioned Uzoenyi in the 18th minute. Gbolahan Salami forced Nadir in Morocco’s goal to make a finger-tipped save after heading a cross from Uzoenyi on target.

Both sides continued to search for an opener with Morocco looking more threatening, so it was no surprise when they took the lead through Moutaouali in the 33rd minute as he lobbed the ball over Agbim who was left exposed and forced to come off his line after Nigeria lost possession in midfield.

Salami had a chance to level the scores three minutes later but the 3SC frontman blasted his shot wide.

Nigeria were made to pay when Mouhssine Iajour curled in a direct free-kick in the 37th minute after Bright Esieme gave away a free-kick on the edge of the area.

The Moroccans extended their lead three minutes later as Moutaouali scored his second goal of the game after shooting from outside the box, to give the North Africans a comfortable lead going into the break.

Ugonna pulled a goal back for Nigeria in the 49th minute, as his shot from distance following terrific chest control found its way in, after good work from Uzoenyi.

The goal appeared to spark the Super Eagles into action as their general play improved.

Rabiu Ali continued Nigeria’s comeback with a goal in the 56th minute as he shot into the bottom corner after a knockdown from Barnabas Imenger, who came on for Salami moments earlier.

Nigeria completed her comeback Uzoenyi in the 90th minute, after the Enugu Rangers wingers equalized to force extra-time.

Abubakar Ibrahim scored the winner in the 111th minute after capitalizing on Nadir’s poor handling of a cross from Uzoenyi.

Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi immediately made defensive changes to the team, as he brought on Umar Zango for the already over-worked Shehu, as Nigeria battled and managed to hold onto their lead till the end of the game.

Nigeria XI: Agbim; Ugonna, Odunlami, Egwuekwe,Uzoenyi, Rabiu Ali, Salami ( Imenger 50’), Esieme, Shehu (Zango 113’), Ede (Ibrahim 63’), Obanor

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