Riyad Mahrez of Algeria celebrates goal with teammates during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals, Semifinals match between Algeria and Nigeria at Cairo International Stadium, Cairo, Egypt on 14 July 2019 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Sunday Jul 14, 2019. 23:05
Nigeria’s hopes of 2019 Africa Cup of Nations glory were ended by a superb, last-gasp goal from Riyad Mahrez which sealed a 2-1 semifinal win for Algeria on Sunday night.
The Fennec Foxes secured the victory at the Cairo International Stadium and will return to the venue on Friday 19 July for their first AFCON final since winning the tournament back in 1990.
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.
Algeria (1) 2 (Troost-Ekong og 40’, Mahrez 90+5’)
Nigeria (0) 1 (Ighalo 72’ pen)
Algeria: Mbolhi, Zeffane, Mandi, Benlamri, Bensebaini, Feghouli, Guedioura, Bennacer, Mahrez, Bounedjah, Belaili
Nigeria: Akpeyi, Awaziem, Troost-Ekong, Omeruo, Collins, Ndidi, Etebo, Chukwueze (Onyekuru 78’), Iwobi, Musa, Ighalo