A flurry of first half goals ensured that the Super Eagles stamped their dominance over the Eagles of Mali as Nigeria moved to the final of the Africa Nations Cup for the first time since 2000.
Elderson Echiejile scored the curtain raiser in the 25th minute and five minutes later, Brown Ideye doubled the lead before impressive Emmanuel Emenike made it three in the 44th minute. Substitute Ahmed Musa scored his first in the competition when he wrapped the game with a fourth goal in the 60th minute. Mali got a consolation goal in the 75th minute through Diara Mady.
The match started slowly as both teams tried to explore their opponents’ weaknesses. But Chelsea star Victor Moses expressed his impatience in the third minute when he fired a lame shot at Mali’s Samassa Mamadou rather than continue with the gradual build-up.
Former Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita was expectedly present in his side’s defining moments but the Nigerian defence prevented him from having the final touch which he craved in the 18th and 19th minutes.
Mali’s impressive Maiga Modibo also began a beautiful move in the 23rd when he seized the ball in the midfield but after Elhadji Traore fluffed the chance, they were made to pay dearly. Moses beat his marker on the right side and released a low cross that was left to sail as Echiejile met it with a diving header for the 25th minute curtain raiser.
Mali pushed for prompt response as Nigeria’s Efe Ambrose was booked in the 26th minute for a foul challenge. Instead of an equaliser, Mali went behind again in the 29th minute when Ideye quickly responded to Emenike’s low cross as he left the Mali goalkeeper helpless. And it would have been another goal for Ideye a minute later but Mamadou did well to stop him.
By half hour mark, Mali had collapsed and Nigeria threatened at will in search of their third which came in the 44th minute when Emenike’s deflected free-kick sailed in.
There were substitutions on both sides as Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi replaced Moses with Ahmed Musa. The move had effect in the 60th minute when Musa scored the fourth goal for Nigeria after beating an offside trap; his first in the competition. He would have made it five three minutes later but the referee ruled his goal offside.
In the 71st minute, goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama denied the Malians of a consolatory goal but they did get one through Mady in the 75th minute after the Nigerian goalkeeper was left flat-footed by substitute Sow Samba. Mali pressed for more as the game came to a close but they could not find the direction towards the Nigeria goal.