NIGERIA PROGRESS

Posted on: Tue 29 Jan 2013

Two Victor Moses penalties ensured Nigeria's Chelsea trio are likely to face Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations.

The winger, a summer signing from Wigan Athletic, struck twice late on to book his side's place in the knockout stages, which for long periods looked in doubt. Had the game remained goalless, Nigeria would have gone out, with reigning champions Zambia going through in their place due to having received fewer yellow cards.

As it is, Moses, John Mikel Obi and youngster Kenneth Omeruo, on loan with Dutch side Den Haag, will be away from their club duties a little longer.

All three performed well on the night, and will now look forward to seeing Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and friends in the next round.

Nigeria were favourites against Ethiopia and were on top for most of the game. Two minutes in Mikel was fouled deep inside the Ethiopian half, allowing Moses to send a free-kick into the danger area where Efe Ambrose met it but headed too high.

Shortly afterwards Moses had another dead-ball effort, this time opting to shoot, and forced a save from the goalkeeper after seeing his shot deflected.

Just after the 20-minute mark yet another Moses free-kick found Ikechukwu Uche, but like Ambrose before him, the forward headed over, and then the winger's corner was headed on target by Uwa Echiejile, but the goalkeeper was equal to the effort.

Mikel was influencing the game from midfield with a number of rangy passes, while Omeruo was enjoying a quiet evening's work at the back, with Nigeria well on top of their less experienced opponents.

Just before half-time Mikel received a heavy challenge that required treatment, but he was okay to continue and was quickly back into the action, sending a free-kick into the area, where the ball eventually fell to Omeruo, but the 19-year-old steered his shot over the bar ensuring a goalless end to the first half.

Five minutes before the break Omeruo made an important intervention at the near post to prevent Ethiopia an easy goal.

With the game goalless, it looked as though Nigeria were going to be heading out via the fair play rule, but 13 minutes from time Moses was brought down inside the area, dusted himself off and calmly slotted home into the bottom corner to give his side the advantage.

Ethiopia almost struck back immediately, and had goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama to thank for palming away a point-blank header from the Ethiopian forward who had escaped Omeruo's attentions.

Mikel's cross at the other end ought to have brought a second goal for the Nigerians, but Brown Ideye's header was saved and Ethiopia broke, forcing the midfielder to track back and commit a foul on the edge of the box. He was yellow-carded for his troubles.

Nigeria survived the scare though and promptly broke to the other end, where once again Moses was brought down, this time by the goalkeeper, Sisay Bancha, who was given his marching orders.

Moses stepped up once more after a long wait for the Ethiopian outfielder to be given the right kit to replace Bancha in goal, but the outcome was the same and he picked out the other bottom corner.

With 90 minutes up, Nigeria were home and dry, which meant Mikel could be rested for the seven minutes of added time that would follow.