Lookman goal takes Nigeria into Afcon semi-finals

Angola’s defender #21 Eddie Afonso (L) fights for the ball with Nigeria’s forward #18 Ademola Lookman during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 quarter-final football match between Nigeria and Angola at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan on February 2, 2024. AFP

Ademola Lookman scored his third goal in two games as Nigeria advanced to the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations on Friday with a 1-0 victory over Angola in the last eight.

Lookman again stole the limelight from Victor Osimhen by following his brace in the 2-0 defeat of Cameroon in the last 16 by breaking the deadlock four minutes before half-time at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium.

The Super Eagles then saw the game out before a crowd of 18,757 in Abidjan, with Osimhen finding the net only for his effort to be disallowed after the VAR ruled him to be offside.

The Napoli superstar, Africa’s reigning footballer of the year, remains stuck on just one goal at this AFCON, but Nigeria’s success has been built around an impressive defence that has now kept four consecutive clean sheets.

“They created more chances against us than anyone else until now. Angola did not reach the quarter-finals by some miracle,” said Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro.

“They are a good team, but once again we didn’t concede. Once again we scored once.

“I would have liked to score more. With better finishing we could have scored another one or two goals, but I am happy. My players deserved it.”

The three-time continental champions advance to a last-four tie next Wednesday against Cape Verde or South Africa in the central Ivorian city of Bouake — those sides meet in the quarter-finals on Saturday.

Angola, meanwhile, go home but this Cup of Nations will be remembered as a success for the Black Antelopes, after they won a knockout tie at the tournament for the first time ever.

Africa’s 28th-ranked side battled bravely here but could not follow up their victory over Namibia in the last round.

“Nigeria are really a very strong team. Congratulations to Jose Peseiro, who has shown how to build a structure that brings success,” said Angola coach Pedro Goncalves.

“I am grateful to my players for the run they have had and very proud of what they have done.”

Angola miss big chances

Nigeria struggled to reach the same heights as against Cameroon six days earlier, undoubtedly affected by the heat and humidity which was even more energy-sapping than at previous points in the competition.

Angola almost took the lead inside four minutes, as a corner from their right was helped on to Mabululu, whose attempt at the near-post was kept out by Stanley Nwabili, the Nigerian goalkeeper who had passed a fitness test to play.

Osimhen tried his luck twice from headers but it was Lookman, the Atalanta forward and former England Under-21 international, who broke the deadlock in the 41st minute.

Moses Simon collected a pass on the left, accelerated away from Kialonda Gaspar and drove into the area before cutting the ball back for Lookman to finish.

Nigeria continued to create chances after the break, but Angola did pass up a glorious opportunity to draw level just before the hour mark.

AEK Athens striker Zini, on as a half-time substitute, was sent through on goal and his effort beat Nwabili, only to rebound back off the far post.

It was a major let-off for Nigeria, who then thought they had killed the game off when Osimhen rose to head home a Lookman free-kick with a quarter of an hour left, the ball going in despite the Angolan goalkeeper getting a touch.

However, the effort was disallowed to the frustration of Osimhen, who carried on until the final moments despite taking a succession of knocks and being helped to the side of the pitch on a stretcher at one point.

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