Nigeria advanced into the quarter-finals of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) with a 3-1 win over hosts South Africa in front of a capacity Cape Town Stadium crowd on Sunday.
Chrisantus Ejike and Ifeanyi Ede ensured the Super Eagles team B remained in contention for the CHAN title in their debut appearance.
Nigeria and South Africa finished their final Group A match with ten men apiece as Solomon Kwambe got his marching order in the 73rd minute before Vuyo Mere witnessed similar faith moments later.
Bafana Bafana had needed only a draw to move into the next round, but a late consolatory strike was all they could chalk of their resilient opponent which dominated play for the whole of 90 minutes.
Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi, had stressed the importance of winning the rest of the group stage matches following the opening day loss to Mali- who beat Mozambique 2-1 to emerge group winners on Sunday- and, indeed, like Spain- coming from losing their opening game in the 2010 FIFA World Cup to clinching the title-, Nigeria are now one of the favourites to lift the 2014 CHAN trophy.
Nigeria got off to a good start, forcing several corners off coach Gordon Igesund’s side.
Rangers loanee Chigozie Agbim was called into action early on to save Tefu Mashamaite quick header as the hosts looked to steal an early lead.
But it was another Rangers player Chrisantus Ejike, 21, who snapped the lead for the Eagles in the 21st minute,getting on the end of a cross from the left flank to slam home from inside the box past Moeneeb Josephs, who stood in for the injured Itumeleng Khune.
South Africa could hardly figure a way back before another defensive error increased their woes.
This time goalkeeper, Joseph, spilled an easy attempt at goal and then fouled Ifeanyi Ede as he tried to collect the rebound. The Enyimba FC winger took to the spot to score his second goal of the tournament in the 31st minute.
Parker and Katlego Mashego failed to pull one back for Bafana as Keshi’s side went into the interval with a two-goal lead.
South Africa were determined to get back in the game early into the second-half but often time forgot their defensive responsibilities which almost accounted for a third goal in the 49th minute, only for Ede to shoot into the palm of their goalie.
Parker had a glaring opportunity to get the hosts back in the game on the hour mark but his weak bicycle kick- after evading the offside trap- went straight into the palm of Agbim.
Ejike sealed victory for the African champions moments later from a good link-up play and could have grabbed his hat-trick in the 70th minute, but his well-struck volley came off the woodwork.
Bafana earned a penalty with ten minutes of play left, and Parker stepped up to convert from 6-yards.
Agbim, who- as promised- stepped up his game on the night, again denied Mashego on 88 minutes as Nigeria held on to a clear-cut win to finish as Group B runners-up.