Jose Peseiro's men showcased defensive and attacking brilliance when necessary to completely keep the Black Sable Antelopes of Angola at bay as they cruised to a hard-fought 1-0 victory at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan on Friday evening.
Just like William Troost-Ekong in the Round of 16 clash against Cameroon, goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali passed a late fitness test to take his place in-between the sticks, a timely fitness boost which proved decisive in the encounter.
Jose Peseiro maintained his previous starting XI, deciding not to follow the 3-4-3 formation that served him well against Rigobert Song's side but instead opted for a 3-4-2-1 formation with Victor Osimhen as the lone striker.
Below are the ratings of the performances of Super Eagles players who played against Angola on Friday night with Lookman, Nwabali and Moses Simon shining so brightly for the three-time AFCON champions.
Nigeria 1-0 Angola: Super Eagles player ratings
Stanley Nwabali – 8/10
Nwabali shook off a worrisome knock from Georges-Kevin N’Koudou in the win against Cameroon to start for Nigeria against Angola.
Unlike Cameroon's game, he was really tested by the Angolans but the Chippa United goalkeeper once again came out tops with his calm presence at the back and dealt with all the aerial balls without any panic.
He made two big saves, one in the fourth minute and the other in the second half to keep his 4th clean sheet of the tournament.
One goal conceded
4 clean sheets
— POOJA!!! (@PoojaMedia) February 2, 2024
Semi Ajayi – 7/10
Ajayi showcased composure in left-back and complimented his teammates well in Peseiro's three-back system. The West Bromwich Albion defender made two clearances and one interception in his 36 touches with the ball. He also completed 81% of his passes.
Calvin Bassey – 7/10
Bassey put in a brilliant performance where he was never dribbled past. He made 2 clearances, 2 tackles, contested 6 duels and won 4. Whether it was in a back three or as the left wing-back, Bassey continued to shine. Interestingly, he missed one big chance which he could have scored from a header in the second half.
William Troost-Ekong – 8/10
The Super Eagles captain put in another great shift at the back, making sure he was always well-positioned to thwart Angola's attacks. Troost-Ekong made 7 clearances, blocked 1 shot, made 1 key pass, won 4/5 duels, losing possession just four times.
And for a player who just returned from injury, the 30-year-old didn’t show any signs of rustiness, helping the team keep a fourth clean sheet. He was my Man of the Match.
Ola Aina – 7/10
Deployed for the third time as a wing-back against Angola, the Nottingham Forest man showed great awareness and did his job. He did lay off 2 key passes but he was not very exceptional in the affair.
Zaidu Sanusi – 7/10
For the second game running, Sanusi could have scored but instead blasted his effort wide. He registered 1 shot on target, made 1 key pass, completed his only dribble and made 5 clearances.
Frank Onyeka – 7/10
He's mostly the unsung hero in the Nigerian team so far in this AFCON. The Brentford player once again played a key role in the middle of the pack with his timely tackles. He made one clearance, won 6/8 duels, and delivered 2 key passes before his 87th minute substitution.
Alex Iwobi – 7/10
Iwobi's more conservative role in Peseiro’s AFCON formation means he's not as free as we know him. Nonetheless, he put in a tireless performance in midfield as he completed 8/9 long balls, put in 2 tackles but was unable to deliver a key pass.
Ademola Lookman – 8/10
Lookman continued his brilliant performances in the Nigerian jersey against the Antelopes. The Atalanta man was a constant threat to Angola and capped off a great performance with the only goal of the game just before the break.
Lookman was also at the end of delivering crucial passes with 2 in the game, putting tackles as well. He has now scored 3 knockout goals for Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations, a feat only few Super Eagles can boast of.
3️⃣ – Ademola Lookman becomes the 4th Nigerian player to score 3+ goals in the knockout stages in a single AFCON edition.
— Opta Nigeria (@OptaNGR) February 2, 2024
Victor Osimhen – 7/10
Osimhen may not have scored but was involved in attacking moves from the team. The Napoli striker scored in the second half but was overruled for offside, a tight call which could have capped off a decent display for Nigeria. He was substituted in the 89th minute physically exhausted with a possible injury scare.
Moses Simon – 8/10
The Nantes man got into so many good positions and delivered the most important pass of the game. His brilliant assist down the flank which he drilled low for Lookman was key to the goal.
He was a constant threat for the Angolan defense and was duly rewarded as the Man of the Match.
Substitutes and Manager
Alhassan Yusuf – 6/10
Yusuf didn’t really have much to do after replacing Iwobi with 10 minutes left.
Joe Aribo – 6/10
Didn't offer much either but helped to defend the lead in the 11 minutes he was on the field of play.
Paul Onuachu – Nil
Came on in added time for Osimhen and didn’t contribute much other than delay play.
Kenneth Omeruo – Nil
Came on in added time for Lookman and didn’t contribute much other than delay play.
Jose Peseiro – 8/10
Peseiro got his tactics right for the fourth time in the tournament. He seems to have found his winning starting line-up and he deserves credit for how has managed the players to perform beyond expectations.
Next up for the Super Eagles
Coach Peseiro has seemingly found the winning formation that has ensured defensive solidity, as they made it four consecutive matches without conceding a goal.
Though it was not a 100% Super Eagles performance, it was just enough to seal the win. They'll next play the winner between Cape Verde vs South Africa on Saturday night for a place in the AFCON finals.
This article was most recently revised and updated 3 weeks ago