Nigeria booked their place in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals with a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Ivory Coast on Sunday.
Cheikh Tiote had cancelled out Emmanuel Emenike’s 43rd-minute opener just after half-time at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Phokeng, South Africa.
But Nigeria were not to be denied a last-four meeting against Mali as Sunday Mba struck a deflected winner 12 minutes before full-time.
Stephen Keshi’s Nigeria made a bold start, unlike the nervousness that had characterised their dull group matches.
Chelsea forward Victor Moses was once again influential – his tenacity constantly causing problems for the Ivory Coast defenders.
Emenike was looking to recapture the form he showed against Burkina Faso, and he fired over from point-blank range in the first half.
With half-time approaching, Nigeria’s enterprise eventually paid off after they won a free-kick 30 yards from goal.
John Obi Mikel touched the ball into the path of Emenike and the midfielder fired his shot over the wall and past Boubacar Barry, who perhaps should have done better.
But the Ivory Coast were on level terms just five minutes after the break as Tiote was left unmarked in the area, heading past Vincent Enyeama.
Both sides looked to attack after the equaliser and they created several opportunities, which went to waste.
Mba, included at the expense of the likes of Peter Odemwingie and Obafemi Martins, was to be the hero for Nigeria.
The 24-year-old ran at the Ivory Coast defence and sent a deflected shot up and over Barry in the 78th minute.
Keshi’s side played out a nervy final 10 minutes as the Ivory Coast pushed forward, but they held on to deservedly progress.
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