Published — Thursday 7 February 2013
Last update 7 February 2013 3:35 am
DURBAN: Nigeria scored three goals in a blistering 20-minute first-half spell as they routed Mali 4-1 to reach the final of the African Nations Cup for the first time since 2000 yesterday.
After Mali settled first and threatened to take an early lead, Nigeria clicked into gear with goals from Elderson Echiejile after 25 minutes, Brown Ideye in the 30th minute and an own goal from Mali defender Momo Sissoko just before halftime.
Substitute Ahmed Musa, who replaced the outstanding Victor Moses after 53 minutes added the fourth shortly after coming on when he beat the offside trap and slipped the ball through goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa’s legs.
Mali, who famously came back from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 with Angola in the opening game of the 2010 finals, never looked like repeating that feat but did score a consolation goal when Cheick Diarra fired home in the 75th minute.
In Sunday’s final, Nigeria will meet the winners of the second semi between Ghana and Burkina Faso being played later at Nelspruit.
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi is one victory from becoming the second man to win the tournament as player and coach but, before the goal onslaught, Mali had the better of play and created three good chances inside the first 15 minutes. Modibo Maiga and Seydou Keita both had headers that went close and Sissoko unleashed a thunderous effort from 30 meters out that went just over Vincent Enyeama’s crossbar.
But Nigeria, with John Obi Mikel, Ogenyi Onanzi and Moses asserting themselves in midfield, took control of the game with devastating effect.
Ideye went close to opening the scoring with a fierce angled drive which Mali keeper Samassa did well to save with his foot before Mikel shot narrowly over the bar in the 22nd minute from 30 meters.
Nigeria made the breakthrough when Moses turned and nutmegged Mali defender Adama Tamboura wide on the left and sent in a low cross which Nigerian defender Echiejile, unmarked, stooped to head home.
Five minutes later, Ideye doubled their lead from another Moses cross, bundling the ball home with Samassa powerless to prevent him scoring.
Onanzi came close to making it three when he tried to lob Samassa two minutes later and Nigeria did not have to wait long for the third goal.
Gambian referee Backary Papa Gassama awarded Nigeria a free kick on the edge of the box just before halftime and Emenike’s powerfully struck effort took a big deflection off Sissoko leaving Samassa watching the ball go into his net.
That effectively killed the game as a contest and although Mali coach Patrice Carteron replaced Modibo Maiga with Cheick Diarra up front, the damage was already done.
It got worse for Mali after 56 minutes when Musa stayed onside, advanced on Samassa and scored by slipping the ball through his legs.
Mahamadou Samassa, the cousin of the Mali keeper, had a good chance for a consolation goal before the team did finally score but it was too little too late.