Cape Town (SAPA) – An 85th minute Chinonso Obiozor goal helped Nigeria beat Zimbabwe 1-0 in an ill-tempered African Nations Championship (Chan) third place playoff at the Cape Town Stadium, on Saturday evening.
The match was a physical affair from the outset, both sides guilty of some overly robust play.
This was certainly the case in the 17th minute when Zimbabwean midfielder Masimba Mambare went studs up on Chigozie Agbim, his boot landing on the Super Eagles shot stopper as the pair competed for an aerial ball.
Mambare was given his marching orders, while Agbim was able to take his place again after receiving medical attention.
The first half continued in a similar vein, play stopped regularly for fouls, while neither side were able to create more than half-chances from range.
Both teams were guilty of wayward shooting as neither keeper was properly tested.
There was a late opportunity for the Super Eagles to go ahead, but after cutting inside from the left wing, Abubaker Ibrahim sent a 20-yard shot just inches wide of the post.
The second half witnessed little change in the pattern of the game; both teams were happy to attack, which made for an open spectacle, but again there was no end product in and around the final third.
There was also no change when it came to the high foul count, play again held up for lengthy periods as some hostile challenges went in.
Midway through the second stanza and there were some good chances for Nigeria as they began to look the more threatening side.
Solomon Kwambe sent a free kick marginally wide, while Zimbabwe defender Eric Chipeta did well a few minutes later to clear the ball off his own line.
There was nearly a goal for the Warriors against the run of play when Simba Sithole played Kudakwashe Mahachi in with a superb ball, but the latter’s touch was too heavy which meant he was always second best to score from a tight angle.
From the very next play the Super Eagles were finally able to break the deadlock, when Obiozor clinically headed the ball home from eight yards out after an excellent cross from Christantus Ejike, the goal enough to seal a third place finish at the tournament.