The quarter-final stage of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) got underway yesterday with two action-packed fixtures that kept spectators on the edge of their seats.
Nigeria 1-0 Angola
Ademola Lookman fired Nigeria into the semi-finals as the Super Eagles picked up a 1-0 victory over Angola to extend their excellent record in the knockout phase.
Angola had already defied the odds to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010, and they nearly got off to an excellent start when Stanley Nwabali saved a certain goal from a Mabululu effort.
Nigeria soon started to gain a foothold in the contest, and Victor Osimhen’s header from a Moses Simon cross went straight into the grateful grasp of Antionio Dominique.
Osimhen was unsurprisingly Nigeria’s biggest attacking threat, but it was Lookman who broke the deadlock for the Super Eagles at the end of a devastating counter-attack.
Simon effortlessly skipped over Kialonda Gaspar’s challenge and teed up the Atalanta forward to smash the ball home with a clinical first-time finish.
Nigeria looked to extend their lead in the opening part of the second half, but Alex Iwobi and Zaidu Sanusi could not convert their chances.
Calvin Bassey also spurned a decent goalscoring opportunity after heading over the crossbar from point-blank range, and the Super Eagles were nearly made to rue their wastefulness.
Angola came within inches of delivering a sucker punch to equalise when Show set Zini through on goal with a perfectly weighted pass, but the striker rattled the woodwork from close range.
Osimhen had been dangerous and thought he’d finally got a well-deserved goal after heading home Lookman’s free-kick, but it was chalked off for a marginal offside call.
He got another chance to double Nigeria’s lead when he got through on goal, but his effort was thwarted by a superb block from Gaspar.
Angola offered little by way of attacking threat in the final minutes, and Nigeria ultimately stood firm to progress to the semi-finals, further emphasising their lofty ambitions in the tournament.
DR Congo 3-1 Guinea
DR Congo sealed their place in the semi-finals after an emphatic 3-1 victory over Guinea in Abidjan.
The game witnessed a frantic opening exchange that saw Brentford man Yoane Wissa squander a big chance before Guinea were awarded a contentious penalty following Chancel Mbemba’s push on Mohamed Bayo.
Bayo emphatically dispatched the spot-kick, sending Lionel Mpasi the wrong way to give Guinea the lead.
Mbemba only needed seven minutes to atone for his error, pouncing on a defensive mishap from the Guinean defence to rifle home an equaliser.
With the sails in their wind, Congo came agonisingly close to completing a comeback when Cedric Bakambu diverted a dangerous delivery from Arthur Masuaku narrowly wide of the far post.
The Leopards carried their momentum into the early stages of the second half, and their pressure was duly rewarded shortly after the hour mark when Congo were awarded a penalty following a clumsy foul on Silas.
Wissa was handed the opportunity to make up for his first-half miss and gobbled up the chance to give Congo the lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
Guinea poured forward in search of a leveller, but Masuaku killed the game with a sublime long-range free kick in the 82nd minute as Congo established a two-goal lead.
Congo saw out the game to book their place in the semi-finals for the first time since 2015.
The battle for a place in the last four continues today, with Mali taking on host nation Ivory Coast, while Cape Verde will aim to continue their heartwarming AFCON story with another crucial win over South Africa.
How to watch?
All AFCON games are broadcast live on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom. Numerous other live football streaming websites will allow you to watch the tournament in real time regardless of your location.
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