Angola have always proved a handful for Nigeria and it was set to follow a similar narrative until the 92nd minute when Tony Okpotu finally came good for his team after spurning several gilt-edged chances.
There were injuries to reliable team members with some players having to grow up during the game. But just like I said in the preview of some matches for the weekend, it took two goals to douse the Angolan challenge with the Eagles now 180 minutes from lifting a trophy Nigeria has never won. Which players gave their all and which ones have to step up?
|Ikechukwu Ezenwa||7.5/10||No fault for the Angolan goal, which was an unfortunate ricochet. The Eagles No.1 pulled off save after save to keep his team in the contest and was probably the happiest man when Gabriel scored the winning goal. His big game temperament has improved and on the back of this showing, he could have booked his own ticket to Russia 2018. The Man of the Match|
|Osas Okoro||6.5/10||Consistent, calm, and reliable will be the words to describe Okoro. He tried to link up with either Faleye or Ogbuh in pushing back the Angolans and got in some fine crosses. His set-piece ability is known but he has to improve it in the semifinal against Sudan.|
|Ikouwem Udo||7/10||The greatest compliment to pay this dashing left back is to ask Coach Salisu why he wasn’t starting ahead of the injured Daniel James. Was proactive all evening carrying the ball forward at every opportunity and was not found lacking in his defensive duties. The 18-year-old Enyimba defender has a great future ahead of him.|
|Stephen Eze||7/10||Unflappable, strong and decisive in making tackling interceptions. Maybe he could be held a little responsible for the Angolan goal as he failed to communicate properly with his younger partner. Another majestic performance and the new Lokomotiv Plovdiv recruit could have caught Gernot Rohr’s eyes.|
|Orji Okagbue||NA||Made an uncharacteristic mistake that gave Fofo a goal scoring chance and got injured trying to rectify his own mistake. A big miss going forward.|
|Emeka Atuloma||6/10||Was still wasteful in his passing but got stuck in making valuable interceptions and tackles. If he could only pass, he would be the complete defensive midfielder. At 25, he still has time to work on his deficiencies.|
|Dayo Ojo||7/10||Ojo buzzed around the midfield, tackled and tried to join the attack. His energy, especially after the Angolans took the lead was exemplary.|
|Rabiu Ali||6/10||No other accolade for the oldest Eagle than he assisted for the Okpotu equaliser with a deft backward header. The Pillars’ man tried to take control of the midfield with the help of Dayo Ojo and ran till the very end.|
|Emeka Ogbuh||4/10||Looks like he got cowed by the occasion and could not provide his usual exuberant runs down the flanks. Swapped positions with Faleye but was unable to affect the offensive moves of the Eagles. Took a blow to the head that meant he had to be taken off.|
|Sunday Faleye||5/10||Was very mobile until his elbow injury and tried to link up with Tony Okpotu.|
|Tony Okpotu||6/10||What can you say? He missed a glorious chance 17 seconds into the match and scored the equaliser with seconds left in extra time. Okpotu has scored two equalisers now in Morocco but looks like he needs five chances to put one away.|
|Danladi Timothy||6/10||Thrown into the affray after Orji went off injured and gave away the goal with a hasty clearance that ricocheted off an Angolan player. He was jittery every time he went into the tackle but settled down in extra time.|
|Gabriel Okechukwu||8/10||Came on for the injured Faleye on the hour mark and looked dangerous every time he got the ball. After hitting the post with a header late on in regulation time, he got the winning with a superb strike after leaving three players for dead.|
|Augustine Oladapo||5/10||Occupied the Angolan full backs and tracked back to help his team defend.|
|Coach Salisu Yusuf||7/10||He had to make changes he didn’t plan for but showed he has the trust of all the players in his squad.|
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