African Nations Championship favourites Nigeria bounced back from a goal behind to beat Equatorial Guinea 3-1 in their last Group C game on Tuesday.
After being left stunned by Secundino Eyama Nsi’s first-half strike, Nigeria coach Salisu Yusuf made tactical changes that pad dividends as Anthony Okpotu, Dayo Ojo and substitute Rabiu Ali found the net to secure victory in Stade Adrar, Agadir.
Rodolfo Bodipo’s side took an unlikely 40th-minute lead as Super Eagles were caught flat-footed as Nsi powered in Miguel Ángel Mayé’s corner.
Although that was the Nzalang Nacional’s only shot of the opening period, it took Yusuf’s men – who needed a draw to book a last eight ticket – until the 58th minute to forge a breakthrough as Okpotu coolly headed in his first goal in the competition.
Sunshine Star’s Ojo then put the Super Eagles ahead with his long-range effort to the relief of the technical crew thanks to Ali’s assist.
And Ali soon sealed victory in the 83rd minute from the penalty spot after Okpotu was recklessly brought down by captain Cosme Anvene, leaving fans celebrating maniacally as the Stade Adrar fell to a stunned silence.
The two-goal advantage was untroubled for the remainder of the encounter, though, as Nigeria clung on for their sixth CHAN win since 2014.
They face Group D’s runners-up in Sunday’s quarter-final fixture at Stade Ibn Batouta, Tangier for a place in the last four.