Nigeria set up a final date with hosts Morocco after a Gabriel Okechukwu first half strike handed them a 1-0 victory against resilient Sudan in the second semi-finals of the 2018 CHAN on Wednesday in Marrakech.
Okechukwu’s 16th minute strike separated the two sides as Nigeria survived onslaughts from the Desert Hawks to reach a first final in the history of the championship designed exclusively for footballers playing in their domestic leagues.
A game that saw the two sides finish with ten men each; it was the Super Eagles who would count themselves luckier in a game the Sudanese never gave up until the final whistle.
The Nigerians were dealt a major blow as early as the fifth minute when goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa was forced off after colliding with Mohamed Hashim. However his replacement Ajiboye Oladale proved equal to the task as his superb saves was vital in the Super Eagles progress to the decisive stage of the competition.
On 16 minutes, Anthony Okpotu’s flick found Okechukwu who slid past Sudan goalie Akram El Hadi for the opener.
Okpotu should have doubled the lead two minutes later but Akram had the better of him in a one-on-one situation.
The Sudanese kept the Nigerian defence boiling in the dying embers of the first half but Ajiboye saved Ahmed Bashir’s glancing header on the stroke of time.
Sudan resumed the better of the two sides and their dominance in the forced Nigeria midfield Ifeanyi Ifeanyi to earn himself a second yellow card on 57 minutes, and eventually his marching off orders.
The Desert Hawks made the most of the numerical advantage as the Nigerians esoted to counterattacks.
Seven minutes from time, Ajiboye was again to Nigeria’s rescue denying Abdel Latif Ismail before Stephen Eze ballooned away a goalbound shot on the line.
Sudan suffered a huge blow when Bakri Makki was sent off on 87 minutes for fouling Dayo Ojo, who had broken loose on the counter, just outside the penalty area.
Ajiboye kept Nigeria’s lead intact with two decisive saves in stoppage time as Sudan were left to rue their missed opportunities.
Nigeria will face Morocco in Sunday’s final, while Sudan battle Libya in third place match 24 hours earlier.
Nigeria: Ezenwa (Ajiboye 12’), Osas, Udoh, Okgbue, Eze, Ali (Ibrahim 77’), Ifeanyi, Ojo, Oladapo, Gabriel, Okpotu (Musa 62’)
Sudan: Akram, Abuuagla (Taher 53’), Dafalla, Makki, Idris, Maki, Gesalla (Yagoub 64’), Samawal (Babikir 76’), Bashir, Ismaeil, Nasreldin