Gabriel Okechukwu struck an extra-time winner as Nigeria came from behind to beat Angola 2-1 in their African Nations Championship quarter final on Sunday.
Group D runners-up Angola had taken the lead in the 54th minute against the run of play via Va, but Nigeria took the tie to extra time in dramatic fashion in the first minute of second-half stoppage time when Anthony Okpotu finished at the back post.
Substitute Okechukwu settled the match in the 109th minute when he slalomed past two Angolan defenders before slamming a left-footed effort past Landu.
The win takes Nigeria through to a semi final against Sudan in Marrekech on Wednesday as the Super Eagles remain on course to match their best CHAN finish – third in 2014.
Nigeria have been criticised this tournament for lacking a cutting edge going forward, and again, while they created numerous opportunities early on, they missed a hatful of chances, with Okpotu particularly culpable.
Only seconds into the contest, he was played through one on one against Landu, but hesitating, he allowed the opportunity to pass before limply falling over the Angolan stopper’s outstretched leg.
It was a sign of things to come, with Emeka Atuloma heading wide from a corner in the seventh minute after Landu failed to claim a corner, and Sunday Faleye pulling away from Wilson minutes later only to send his through ball just behind Okpotu.
The Eagles, already without sick left-back Daniel Itodo, suffered another defensive blow early on when Timothy Danladi replaced the injured Kalu Orji in the heart of the defence.
However, they continued their assault on the Angolan goal, with Okpotu again guilty of hesitation – betraying perhaps a lack of confidence – when he broke through in the 22nd minute.
The Lusophone heavyweights served notice of their brooding threat, and Ikechukwu Ezenwa – later named Man of the Match – had to make a great save to deny Mano in the 28th minute before a double stop to keep the same player at bay moments later.
As the second half began, Okpotu again fired wide after being played in by the lively Faleye, but it was Angola who broke the deadlock when Danladi’s attempted clearance from a menacing through ball deflected off Va and looped over Ezenwa.
After falling behind, Nigeria increased their intensity in search of an equaliser, but Atuloma and Dare Ojo both fell short with long-range efforts, and Okpotu’s futile evening looked set to continue.
The introduction of Okechukwu with half an hour on the clock gradually gave the Eagles a different dimension in attack, and the powerful forward forced an excellent save from Landu with a close-range header in the 76th minute.
Moments later he was crowed out after being picked out by Alli, and – with seven minutes remaining – scooped a shot over after Dayo and Okpotu combined to forge an opening.
Angola should have taken the game beyond Nigeria when Ezenwa was forced to palm wide after Fofo recklessly opted to fire at the stopper from an angle despite having a man over.
As it looked as though Nigeria were destined for a premature exit, the maligned Okpotu came up with the goods.
This was an unmissable opportunity, as the Lobi Stars man was found at the back post after Ali had deftly headed on Osas Okoro’s free kick and Okpotu, for a man who had already seen a swathe of chances pass him by, finished calmly.
In extra time, Ali was guilty of going for goal on his own when Okpotu was available in space in the 106th minute, but his error was rendered moot three minutes later when Okechukwu cut in from the right, evaded two Angolan challenges, and send a thumping low strike past Landu from just outside the box.