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Nigeria
smashed South Africa’s dreams of progressing beyond the group stages of the
African Nations Championship Sunday, beating the hosts
3-1 and ensuring Nigeria
joined Group A winners Mali in the next round.

Nigeria
needed to win to progress, and win they did, opening the scoring in the 21st
minute.

After some
enterprising work down the left flank, Chistantus Ejike blasted a left footed
shot from the edge of the six-yard-box past the keeper and into the top corner.

South
Africa, who started the game with a defence-first strategy, responded by
adopting a more attacking posture, but to no avail.

On 30
minutes South African keeper Moeneeb Josephs spilled a routine free kick, and
in trying to regain the ball managed to rugby tackle a prowling Nigeria
attacker.

Josephs
conceded a penalty and received a yellow card for his efforts. He got a hand to
Ifeanyi Ede’s penalty, was unable to stop Nigeria from pulling 2-0 ahead.

Facing an
humiliating exit at home in the group stages, South Africa brought on more
attacking firepower in the form of Katlego Mashego.

But Nigeria
nearly made it three just minutes into the second half when the South African
defence was caught in possession at the back.

Only a
reflex save from Josephs stopped Ede from putting the game beyond South
Africa’s reach.

Mashego
nearly proved his worth on 61 minutes, when he forced a brilliant one-handed
stop from the Nigerian net minder, who managed to parry his shot from the end
of the box past the post.

But within
minutes the game was effectively over, when Ejike collected a one-two and made
it 3-0.

Ejike almost
made it a hatrick on 70 minutes, with his spectacular half volley from the edge
of the box hitting the crossbar.

Some 36,000
Bafana Bafana fans could only look on.

There was a
glimmer of hope for South Africa on 74 minutes, when Nigerian defender Solomon
Kwambe was harshly sent off for a late tackle.

But the
referee again reached for the red card two minutes later, sending off South
Africa’s Vuyo Mere for the same offence.

South Africa
got a consolation on 81 minutes from the penalty spot, with Bernard Parker
making it four goals from three group games.

Meanwhile
across the city at Athlone Stadium Mali beat Mozambique 2-1 to win Group A.

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