Heartbreak for Bafana as Nigeria win a nail-biting AFCON clash on penalties

Nigeria have knocked South Africa’s Bafana Bafana out of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in a semifinal penalty shootout, with Kelechi Iheanacho converting the decisive spot kick following a 1-1 draw over 120 nerve-jangling minutes.

It was an end-to-end contest that captivated the spectators for more than two hours, and the underdogs fought as Bafana Bafana showed.

The Super Eagles started the game as favorites on many counts.

Nigeria took the lead when their captain, William Troost-Ekong, converted a penalty in the 65th minute after their star striker, Victor Osimhen, was brought down in the 18-yard area.

Then, just when the Super Eagles thought they had finished off the game with an Osimhen tap-in in the 86th minute, the video assistant referee brought play back.

The script was then flipped following a monitor review by on-field referee Omar. The Egyptian referee pointed to the spot for a four on Percy Tau in the build-up to Nigeria’s attack.

Teboho Mokoena stepped up to convert it to send Bafana fans into the dreamland.

Khuliso Mudau had a golden opportunity to win it for Bafana towards the end of regulation time, but blazed over after goalkeeper Stanley Nwanali parried a Mokoena free kick.

As the game went into extra time, the twists and turns continued, with Grant Kekana sent off for a last-defender foul.

Then it was down to penalties, which Nigeria won 4-2 after Mokoena and Evidence Makgopa missed their attempts.

Ronwen Williams wasn’t able to reproduce his quarterfinal heroics after he failed to save a single penalty on this occasion, with Iheanacho converting the decisive kick to keep the Super Eagles hopes of winning the fourth AFCON alive.

Bafana Bafana have an opportunity to clinch a consolatory bronze medal when they face DR Congo in the third-place playoff on Saturday.

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