There will be a new winner at the Total Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2019 after defending champions Cameroon were sent packing by Nigeria who beat them 3-2 in a five-goal round of 16 thriller in Alexandria on Saturday evening.
Odion Ighalo struck twice with Alex Iwobi scoring the winner after Cameroon had raced from a goal down to lead 2-1 courtesy of goals from Stephen Bahoken and Clinton Njie.
An opening 45 minutes that started as a slow hands back approach from both perennial rivals ended in dramatic fashion with the defending champions scoring two quick goals in the final five minutes to complete their first half comeback.
Bahoken drew Cameroon level in the 40th minute when he tapped in simply from a yard out after Nigerian keeper Daniel Akpeyi failed to pick out a Christian Bassogog cross from the left.
Three minutes later, Cameroon were 2-1 up when Njie latched on to a long ball from skipper Eric Choupo-Moting before beating Kenneth Omeruo for power and finishing with a strong low effort from inside the box.
In a half that they were hugely underwhelming, Clarence Seedorf was a delighted man seeing his charges go to the dressing room a goal up.
Nigeria got into the lad after 19 minutes when Ighalo’s shot from inside the box was deflected beyond Andre Onana after Omeruo laid in a cross into the area from the right.
The Super Eagles were deservedly in the lead after dictating much of the possession in the opening exchanges though Cameroon had the earliest chance when Michael Ngadeu’s header from a Kunde Malong corner went just over.
Just before equalizing, Cameroon had shouts for a penalty when Nigeria struggled to defend a Choupo-Moting drop back ball inside the box.
Nigeria sought to give an immediate response after going 2-1 down and Moses Simon’s shot from inside the box off an Ahmed Musa cross was deflected over for a corner that went to waste.
In the second half, Nigeria tore a piece off Cameroon’s script, responding with two goals in three minutes to re-take the lead.
Ighalo completed his brace in the 62nd minute beating the offside trap and sweeping the ball past Onana after Musa had done well to chest down Collins Awaziem’s cross from the right.
Three minutes later, Iwobi scored what would turn out to be the winner when Cameroon were caught off possession, Ighalo sweeping the ball through to the Arsenal forward who finished calmly past Onana.
Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr had made changes at the start of the second half bringing in Samuel Chukwueze for Simon in a bid to increase the speed of the game.
Cameroon tried to turn the game back in their favor with Seedorf bringing in Karl Toko Ekambi for Njie. As the clock ticked, Rohr resorted to guard his win bringing off match winner Iwobi for defender Leon Balogun as the Super Eagles nervously held on for the win.
Total Man of the Match: Odion Ighalo (Nigeria)
What they said:
Gernot Rohr, Nigeria coach
This was a very tough game today but we showed some fighting spirit especially after losing our lead. Cameroon is a strong team and they showed that today but I am happy for my players that we can remain in this competition. We are now going to Cairo and we hope that we keep the same momentum.
Odion Ighalo, man of the match
It was a tough game against the defending champions and to come back in such a way that we did, I am proud of the team and proud of everyone. We did not give up and we fought till the end. This is a morale boosting win for us.
Clarence Seerdof, Cameroon coach
I don’t think we played that badly for us to lose, but that is football sometimes. I only thought that at some point in the second half, we were not ourselves, we were slow at times and when you do mistakes in a game like this, you get punished. But we must keep working hard despite this disappointment. We have a good side which we can build.
Stephane Bahoken, Cameroon striker
It is heartbreaking to exit very early in the tournament. We didn’t play as well as we had expected and the mistakes we made cost us the game. We were punished and Nigeria was just better than us today. We are sorry to the fans that we couldn’t get to defend our title, but we must rise again.