Riyad Mahrez fired in a late free-kick from outside the penalty area to give Algeria a dramatic 2-1 victory over Nigeria in a fiercely contested semi-final tie at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations Sunday night.
William Troost-Ekong, the man who scored the last-minute winner for Super Eagles in the quarter-final against South Africa, turned the ball into his own net to give Algeria 1-0 lead.
Odion Ighalo equalised for Nigeria in the second half from the penalty spot to register his fourth goal of the tournament. But the heart of Nigerians was left shattered when Mahrez curled in a free kick in added time after initially being denied by Chidozie Awazeim’s block.
The final will now be between Algeria and Senegal on Friday as Teranga Lions earlier defeated Tunisia in the other semi-final tie on Sunday.
Sunday’s meeting was the ninth AFCON clash between Nigeria and Algeria and the expectations were understandably high.
It was the Desert Foxes that had the earlier chances as Baghdad Bounedjah should have scored an early opener but somehow bundled wide off the post from close range. His compatriot, Ramy Bensebaini, did not fare any better moments later as he wasted a free header in the Nigeria box.
Super Eagles had their moments also but failed to make the most of it and one of them was when Ighalo slotted Alex Iwobi’s pass just wide from inside the box.
When it was looking like the first half will produce no goals, the Desert Foxes opened the scoring just before half-time. Mahrez’s cross deflected off left-back Jamilu Collins before bouncing in off the helpless Troost-Ekong.
Nigeria showed a huge improvement after the break but they needed a slice of luck to equalise in the 72nd minute.
Aissa Mandi was adjudged to have handled the ball with his hand and a penalty was awarded after consulting VAR.
Ighalo coolly converted the penalty kick despite the long delay as he shot into the lead in the Golden Boot race with his fourth goal.
There was a scare for Nigeria as Algeria midfielder Ismael Bennacer rattled the crossbar with a shot from over 25 yards.
Extra time was looming until Algeria won a free-kick on the edge of the box and Mahrez brilliantly buried it in the net.
Senegal, who beat Tunisia 1-0 in extra time thanks to an own goal will now confront Algeria in Friday’s final.