Nigeria tops Ethiopia, advances in African Cup
RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AP) -Nigeria went from the brink of elimination to a place in the quarterfinals at the African Cup of Nations on Tuesday after striker Victor Moses converted two late penalties to earn a 2-0 win over Ethiopia.
The Chelsea striker scored in the 80th and 90th minutes, sparing the two-time champions an early exit with a scoreless draw at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
Ethiopia, in its first tournament appearance in more than 30 years, finished bottom of Group C. Defending champion Zambia also was eliminated after a 0-0 draw with Burkina Faso, which won the group with five points. Nigeria also ended with five points, but had a worse goal difference.
Moses was twice fouled inside the area to win the penalties, and then kept his cool to find the net both times for the Super Eagles.
Moses was first brought down inside the area by Ethiopia defender Alula Girma, then was stopped by Ethiopia goalkeeper Sisay Bancha in another breakaway for the second penalty.
Bancha was red carded after committing the last penalty and a field player had to replace him because all three substitutions had already been made.
"Ethiopia was a very good team and we knew that every opportunity could make the difference,'' Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said. "Soccer is a 90th-minute game.''
Just after the first Nigeria goal, Ethiopia nearly equalized with a close-range header by Saladin Seid, but Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama made a brilliant save, diving to his right and deflecting the ball with his outstretched arms.
"We were playing well but unfortunately in the end we allowed the goals,'' Ethiopia coach Sewnet Bishaw said.
Nigeria, seeking its first title since 1994, was coming off two 1-1 draws in the first matches, both times after having the lead. The Super Eagles didn't qualify for last year's tournament.
Nigeria's best chance until the penalties came in the 66th, when a header by Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel was cleared by a defender just at the goal line.
"We knew they were coming looking to win the game as well,'' Mikel said. "They were very organized in the middle and we tried to make sure we didn't play in the middle. All throughout the game it was tough.''
The Super Eagles were being eliminated because of their disciplinary record. Nigeria and Zambia were tied in points, goal difference and goals scored, so the decision on who would advance would go down to a Fair Play system accounting the number of yellow and red cards and Nigeria had more than Zambia.
"I wasn't checking the scoreline of (the other) match, I wasn't paying attention,'' Keshi said. "I was focused on my team. My concern was for us to get one goal.''
Ethiopia needed to beat Nigeria and hope that Zambia lost its match against Burkina Faso.
It was also without top players Asrat Megerssa and Adane Girma, who were injured in the first half against Burkina Faso, while goalkeeper Jemal Tassew was suspended for two matches after a reckless tackle in the opener against Zambia.
Ethiopia won the Cup of Nations in 1962 but last qualified for the final tournament in 1982.
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