SO SAD: Nigeria Fail To Qualify For AFCON
What a sad day for soccer lovers in Nigeria as a late brace from second-half substitute Sone Aluko was not enough to book defending African Cup of Nations champions Nigeria’s place in next year’s showpiece after they were held to a 2-2 draw by a 10-man Bafana Bafana at the Akwa Ibom National Stadium in Uyo on Wednesday.
Tokelo Rantie’s double seemed to set South Africa up for their first win over the Super Eagles in a competitive outing, but Aluko struck twice in the final 22 minutes to keep the record intact, his efforts though matter nothing in the end as Nigeria will not have the opportunity to defend the title they won in South Africa last year as Congo beat Sudan 1-0 in the other Group A clash.
Stephen Keshi recalled Turkey-based Raheem Lawal to the starting XI while Kenneth Omeruo also recovered from a groin problem to replace the suspended Godfrey Oboabona.
Kaizer Chiefs trio Mandlo Masango, Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Tefu Mashamaite started from the onset while Shakes Mashaba called on Kermit Erasmus who took the flu-ridden Bongani Ndulula’s place in the starting XI following his late withdrawal.
For Bafana Bafana the game presented a the rare occasion of being able to take things easy having already qualified for next year’s showpiece while the Super Eagles were in desperate need of a win.
The visitors got off to a quick start and should’ve had the lead with five minutes on the clock, but Rantie decided to go at goal himself instead of lying it on a plate for Erasmus.
The early scare woke up the hosts who went close moments later through Ahmed Musa. The CSKA Moscow winger smoked Erick Mathoho and looked sure to score, but he was denied by the upright.
Musa continued to terrorise the South African defence, but if it wasn’t the post, it was the imposing Darren Keet who got in his way, the KV Kortrijk man making two superb saves to frustrate the Nigerians.
The Super Eagles started to control the encounter, but were vulnerable for the counter-attack, especially considering the pace of Rantie.
Moeketsi Sekola replaced Erasmus five minutes before the break, the substitution seemed tactical with the Orlando Pirates man not sighting an injury.
Nigeria pressed forward in search of a goal before the interval, but it was South Africa who opened the scoring through Rantie in the 42nd minute.
The Bournemouth forward skipped past two defenders before firing an unstoppable effort past Vincent Enyeama at his near post.
It looked really gloomy for the defending champions at the break as Congo were holding Sudan to a goalless draw in their game after 45 minutes meaning the Super Eagles would not make it to next year’s showpiece had things stayed the same after 90 minutes.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts three minutes into the second half, with Rantie doubling the visitors’ lead. The Bafana Bafana speedster stole the ball off Kenneth Omeruo before rounding Enyeama and slotting the ball into the back of an open net to score his seventh goal for his country.
Sone Aluko pulled one back for the hosts in the 68th minute. Ikechukwu Uche’s curling attempt hit the upright before falling favourably for the England-born marksman who prodded in from close range.
The Super Eagles were handed a further lifeline three minutes later, Letsholonyane receiving his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
Aluko completed his brace deep into stoppage time, but the damage had already been done as the Super Eagles missed their flight to Equatorial Guinea.
Nigeria (0) 2 (Aluko 68’, 90+4’)
South Africa (1) 2 (Rantie 42’, 48’)
Below is the squad that featured in today’s match.
Nigeria: Enyeama; Egwuekwe, Omeruo (Aaron 75’), Ambrose, Oshaniwa, Musa, Mikel, Onzai, Lawal (Aluko 53’), Emenike, Uche
South Africa: Keet; Ngcongca, Mathoho, Mashamaite, Khumalo, Furman, Letsholonyane, Masango (Jali 71’), Manyisa, Rantie, Erasmus (Sekola 40’)
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