By Albert Akota
The Super Eagles of Nigeria yesterday lost to Algeria 1-2 in the semi-final of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
A last minute goal through a free kick by Riyadh Mahrez gave Algeria victory after Odion Ighalo had equalised for the Super Eagles.
William Troost-Ekong had conceded an own goal in the first half to give Algeria the lead.
Algeria will now face Senegal in the final while Nigeria will play Tunisia for third place in the 2019 AFCON being hosted by Egypt.
The Super Eagles, meanwhile, were unable to go all the way on their return to the continental championships.
The first clear chance went the way of Algeria in the seventh minute, with forward Baghdad Bounedjah failing to turn home Youcef Belaili’s cross from the left after it was flapped at by goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi.
Ten minutes later defender Amir Bensebaini had a free header from a free kick, but failed to keep his effort below the crossbar, while a third major chance for the North Africans arrived just before the half hour mark when Bounedjah nicked the ball off Omeruo but failed to beat the ‘keeper one-on-one.
The Fennec Foxes’ dominance was finally reflected in the 40th minute through an own goal from William Troost-Ekong. The centre-back was most unlucky to find himself in just the wrong place to unwittingly direct a deflected cut-back from Riyad Mahrez into his own net.
Nigeria took their time to find some rhythm in attack in the second half, but with 20 minutes of regulation time to play they benefited from a VAR decision which saw the referee award a penalty for a hand-ball by Aissa Mandi.
Odion Ighalo took on the spot kick and tucked it home in the 72nd minute for his fourth goal of the tournament, making it 1-1.
The match looked set for an extra half hour, but in the fifth minute of injury time Riyad Mahrez stepped up and sent a beautiful strike direct from a free kick beyond the reach of Akpeyi’s right-hand to seal a stunning win for Algeria.
The Fennec Foxes will advance to face Senegal in the final on Friday night, while Nigeria will tackle Tunisia in the third-place playoff on Wednesday.