Nigeria vs Algeria: Mahrez’s Dying Minute Goal Denies Super Eagles AFCON Final Berth

Nigeria vs Algeria

Nigeria vs Algeria [Photo: CAF Online]

Riyad Mahrez‘s dying minute goal denied the Super Eagles of Nigeria a final place at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2019 in Egypt as the Desert Foxes of Algeria triumphed 2-1 in Cairo.

Concise News reports that Super Eagles, playing in their 14th semi-final – more than any other team in the competition – went behind in the 40th minute when Wednesday’s hero, William Troost-Ekong put the ball past his own net off Manchester City’s Mahrez’s low cross.

Then, in the 73rd minute, golden boot chaser, Odion Ighalo levelled from the spot after VAR awarded a penalty to Nigeria following a handball on Aissa Mandi.

But the three-time AFCON winners will be dealt a severe blow in additional time as Mahrez struck the winner via a freekick on the 95th minute.

Possession swung between both sides in the first minutes with players looking cautious. The game’s first real chance came at the quarter hour mark from a free kick that Ismaël Bennacer sent to Rami Bensabaini, but the defender’s header went just wide.

With possession going towards Les Fennecs side, Baghdad Bounedjah was about to give Algeria the lead after 29 minutes. Youcef Belaili pass found the striker who rounded his marker, but his shot went straight to Nigeria’s goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi hands.

The first real chance for the Super Eagles came after 38 minutes when Alex Iwobi found Ighalo, but the striker’s shot went wide.

Les Fennecs broke the deadlock five minutes from the break. Mahrez sent a calling cross that was deflected from Nigeria’s defender William Troost-Ekong to his own net giving Algeria a deserved lead into the halftime.

Nigeria started the second half on attacking note trying to find the equalizer but found a resolute Algerian defence that stopped all their attempts. Alex Iwobi tried from distance on the hour mark but missed the target widely.

Algeria tried depending on the counter-attack, but couldn’t make a difference. And after 70 minutes the game took a turnaround. Video Assistant Referee (VAR) intervened to give Nigeria a penalty for a handball on Aissa Mandi. Ighalo made no mistake from the spot to tie the game at 1-1.

Algeria players looked fatigued and tried to keep their opponents at bay, relying on Mahrez and Belaili’s speed in counter-attacks.

Ismail Bennacer could have given Algeria the lead two minutes into stoppage time but his shot kissed the crossbar.

And it was Mahrez who won the match for Les Fennecs four minutes after the full-time mark when his free-kick was perfectly placed over the wall and into the net to lead Les Fennecs to the final for the second time in their history and the first since 1990.

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Ridwan is a trained communicator who specialises in football and squash. He has been published by African Examiner. He provides professional coverage of general news, politics and sports, and has interviewed some of the biggest names in the field - including the first Nigerian interview with South Africa's no. 1 male squash player, Jean-Pierre Brits. He is a proud Nigerian and campaigner for #NigeriaIsOurs.

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