BY STEVE AYOO
William Troost-Ekong stabbed the winning goal in stoppage time as Nigeria beat South Africa 2-1 in Cairo to reserve their spot in the semifinals at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
The Udinese centerback couldn’t have chosen a better game and time to grab his first goal in Super Eagles colors as he lost his marker inside the South Africa penalty box before booting home a corner kick from substitute Moses Simon.
The dramatic winner came when the game was tied 1-1 with extra time beckoning.
A Video Assistant Referee (VAR)-validated goal had seen Bongani Zungu cancel Samuel Chukwueze’s opener for the Eagles.
Zungu’s 71st minute looping header from a supposed offside position had beaten Daniel Akpeyi in the Eagles goal but the assistant referee raised his flag for offside. However, after center referee Jiyed Redouane consulted the VAR, the goal was awarded as replays showed the final ball had come off Odion Ighalo’s shoulder.
Man-of-the-match Chukwueze had Nigeria 1-0 up at the break as he turned home at the second time of asking after his initial effort from an Alex Iwobi cutback was blocked by the Bafana defence. Luckily, the ball broke away for the 20-year-old who slotted past Ronwen Williams to grab his maiden senior goal.
Williams also denied Peter Etebo from a well-taken freekick which the keeper pushed onto the bar.
The victory books Nigeria a semifinal clash against either Algeria or Ivory Coast who contest on Thursday, July 11.
South Africa meanwhile will be headed to the showers before taking a flight back home, having lost to Nigeria in an Afcon game for a third straight game.
The Bafana Bafana kicked out hosts Egypt but couldn’t find that rhythm back especially in a first half which passed them by.
The other semifinal match will pit Senegal against Madagascar or Tunisia. The Teranga Lions booked their first semifinal spot since 2006 by edging Benin 1-0.