A brace of penalties late in the second half from Victor Moses saw Nigeria save their blushes and qualify for the knockout stages of the 2013 African Cup of Nations after beating Ethiopia 2-0 in their final Group C match at the Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg on Tuesday night.
With Bukina Faso and Zambia drawing 0-0 in the other Group D game, Nigeria ended second in the group and will now play Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals of the continental competition.
The first 45 minutes took a pattern we have become familiar with during this AFCON tournament when Nigeria takes to the field.
The Super Eagles dominated the majority of the play, but for all their possession they were unable to make one of their openings on goal count.
It wasn’t a case of the Nigerians not creating chances in front of goal, instead, it was a case of them misfiring which luckily didn’t come back to haunt them. Fortunately for the Eagles, though, Ethiopia were hardly in the game and only really created one chance in the first stanza.
Nigeria, however, should have taken the lead as early as the third minute when a left-sided free-kick found Efe Ambrose unmarked at the back post, but his ten-yard header went inches over the crossbar.
In the 16th minute Ethiopia created their first and only real chance on goal from a corner-kick. Some sloppy defending by Nigeria saw Saladin Said with a free header form six-yards out, but his attempt went over the target.
Six minutes later and we saw our third headed attempt on goal when Ikechukwu Uche was on the end of a right sided free-kick delivery from Victor Moses, but he, like his compatriots before him, headed wide of the target from ten-yards out.
In the 35th minute another set-piece resulted in a headed attempt on goal. This time Elderson Echiejile met the corner with a powerful header form 14-yards out. His attempt, though, was on target but Ethiopian keeper, Sisay Bancha, was on hand to make a fine save.
The best chance of the half fell to Nigerian defender Kenneth Omeruo after a free-kick delivered into the box resulted in a goalmouth scramble seconds before the half time break. The loose ball fell to Omeruo, but he fired over from close range to take the teams into the break all-square.
The start of the second 45 saw Omeruo with another golden chance to open the scoring seven minutes after the restart.
Omeruo was on the end of another corner at the back post, but his header from close range sailed inches over the woodwork.
In the 66th minute, Nigeria were able to fashion another chance on goal from a corner-kick. This time Oboabona met the ball with a header, but while his attempt beat the keeper he saw his header cleared off the goal line by Abebaw Butaco.
Finally, in the 78th minute the Super Eagles were able to make all their pressure tell when Victor Moses was pulled down inside the box and the referee did not hesitate to point to the penalty spot.
Moses stepped-up and coolly converted the spot-kick to give his side the lead, 1-0.
With five minutes to go Moses broke on the counter-attack and won the second penalty of the match when keeper, Sisay Bancha, pulled him down inside the box. Bancha was consequently shown his second yellow card of the night and had to leave the field.
With Ethiopia having made all three of their substitutes outfield player Addis Hintsu had to take the goalies spot and there was nothing he could do to stop Moses from scoring his second penalty goal and sealing victory for Nigeria, 2-0.