Nigeria clinched victory with a 4-2 penalty shootout win against South Africa in a VAR-dominated semi-final showdown.
The dramatic clash propelled Nigeria to their eighth Africa Cup of Nations final after a nail-biting encounter with South Africa that ended in a penalty shootout.
Goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali emerged as Nigeria’s hero by saving penalties from Teboho Mokoena and Evidence Makgopa, securing the 4-2 shootout win. The match was marked by VAR interventions that added to the intensity of the game.
Nigeria initially thought they secured victory when Victor Osimhen scored in the 85th minute, adding to William Troost-Ekong’s second-half penalty. However, the referee overturned the goal after reviewing Percy Tau’s foul inside the penalty area at the start of the play. Mokoena converted the penalty, leveling the score at 1-1.
South Africa’s Grant Kekana was sent off near the end of extra time, setting the stage for Nwabali’s heroics, ultimately propelling the 2013 winners into another final.
Nigeria vs South Africa: Nigerians will play their eighth AFCON final
Osimhen, who was declared fit before the match, suffered an early injury scare after a tackle by Siyanda Xulu. Despite the setback, he continued to play, although the first half remained relatively uneventful.
South Africa had a penalty appeal denied when Khuliso Mudau’s cross hit the arm of Calvin Bassey, who had his arms tucked into his body. The momentum shifted in South Africa’s favor, with Tau missing a promising opportunity.
Nigeria struggled to create chances until Osimhen won a penalty after being fouled by Mothobi Mvala. Troost-Ekong scored the penalty, breaking the deadlock.
South Africa pushed for an equalizer, but Nigeria extended their lead when Osimhen scored. However, VAR intervened, disallowing the goal and awarding South Africa a penalty, which Mokoena converted.
The match remained tense, with both teams missing opportunities. Nigeria regrouped, and Nwabali’s heroics in the penalty shootout secured their place in the final, with Kelechi Iheanacho sealing the victory with a successful penalty.