A first half goal from Rabiu Ali handed Nigeria a 1-0 win over a ten-man Benin in the first semifinal of the 2017 WAFU Cup of Nations at Cape Coast Sports Stadium on Thursday, September 21.
The Super Eagles took the lead in the tenth minute after beautiful counter-attacking football which saw Anthony Okpotu play Rabiu Ali through on goal and he showed all the composure of a veteran to coolly slot past the keeper, 1-0.
Nigeria almost doubled their lead on the half hour mark when a right wing cross from Moses Okoro was met by John Friday, but his ten-yard volley was superbly saved by the Benin keeper.
Things went from bad to worse for Benin when they were reduced to ten men in the 35thminute following a second yellow card for Marcellin Koukpo.
The Super Eagles controlled the remainder of the half, but failed to add to the scoreline before the break.
Seven minutes into the second half Benin nearly found an equaliser when Jules Elegbede met a right wing cross, but he blazed over from close range.
In the 57th minute Nigeria almost scored their second goal when John Friday met a corner-kick with a strong header, but his ten-yard effort shaved the wrong side of the crossbar.
Peter Moses should have put the game beyond doubt in the 73rd minute when he found himself in space only six-yards out from goal, but he was superbly thwarted by the Benin keeper.
Eight minutes later the Benin keeper came to his country’s rescue again, this time denying Afeez Aremu a headed goal with a diving save from eight-yards out.
The Super Eagles continued to push forward in the dying minutes of the game, but their finishing in front of goal was poor as the game ended 1-0.
Nigeria will now take part in the final of the 2017 WAFU Cup of Nations on Sunday, September 24.
Benin (0) 0
Nigeria (1) 1 (Ali 10’)
Benin coach: Oumar Tchomogo
Benin: 1. Glodjinon, 3. Fassinou, 6. Yarou, 5. Salmon, 12. Bah-Yere, 15. Ogoulola, 8. Mama, 9. Saliou (13. Osseni 59’), 10. Koukpo, 11. Gomez, 19. Elegbede (14. Bessan 66’).
Nigeria coach: Salisu Yusuf
Nigeria: 1. Ezenwa, 2. Okoro, 5. Ariwachukwu, 12. Aniyikaye, 3. Akas, 4. Aremu, 8. Ifeanyi, 7. Friday (15. Mathias 68’), 11. P Moses, 10. Ali (14. Okechukwu 85’), 9. Okpotu.