Nigeria scrape through, join Ivory Coast in quarter-finals

( dpa )- Nigeria on Tuesday set up a mouth-watering African Nations Cup quarter-final clash against the hosts Ghana after the Super Eagles advanced to the last eight on goal difference by beating Benin 2-0 in a Group B match played in Sekondi . The Super Eagles benefited from Ivory Coast's 3-0 victory against Mali in Accra in a match that was played at the same time. Had Mali managed a draw against the Ivorians , they would have advanced to the next round. Ivory Coast will face Guinea in the quarter-finals. Another disappointing small crowd of just 3,000 in the Sekondi Sports Stadium saw Nigeria dominate the early spell. Yakubu Ayegbeni could have opened the scoring as early as the second minute after freeing himself from his marker, but his close- range shot went just wide. In the 15th minute Benin's Alain Gaspoz came close to equalizing with a long-range effort which Austin Edjide did well to palm around for a corner. Just two minutes later the Super Eagles had another chance as Peter Odemwingie went down the left flank, went around goalkeeper Yoan Djidonou and played the ball into the centre of the penalty area, but none of his team-mates were on hand to push the ball into the empty net. Odemwingie created another chance midway through the first half when he again took the ball down the left flank and crossed inside. It took a finger-tip save from Djidonou to deny Ayegbeni a free header. Benin had the first chance in the second half when two minutes after the restart substitute Mouritala Ogounbiyi tested Edjide with a powerful shot that was going for the top right corner. Again the goalkeeper saved for a corner. Nigeria, who went into the game knowing that nothing but a victory would keep them in the tournament, finally took the lead in the 52nd minute when Djidonou failed to hold onto a Dan Shittu free- kick. The ball came to Odemdingwie , whose delicate chip found the head of Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel , who made no mistake. "The goal was what we needed. After losing our first match against the Ivory Coast, we always knew that we had to play our best and hope for a good result in the other game. I am pleased that this happened. "We have the best players here at this tournament and now we will have to show that we can take on the best in our next match against Ghana. It will be tough, but I know we can do it," Mikel said. Benin tried desperately to come back into the match after going a goal down, but found the Nigerian backline impossible to penetrate. Instead, it was Ayegbeni who, somewhat against the run of play scored a second for his side after a long ball beat the Benin offside trap. At the end of the game the Nigerian players celebrated wildly in front of a small group of Super Eagles fans, who had been beating drums throughout the game in support of their team. Benin coach Reinhard Fabisch said that he was pleased with his side's performance. "I think they did well today. All the players tried their very best. We managed to keep Nigeria at bay for a long time. This was not an easy game." He said that he had no intention of resigning. "I have been in this job for 30 days and I signed a two-year contract. I do not think that we need to talk about a resignation." In Accra Ivorian coach Gerard Gili made five changes to the side that had beaten Benin in their last game and it took just nine minutes for them to get onto the score sheet through Didier Drogba , who scored after being set up by Yaya Toure . They added a second in the 65th minute when Marc Zorro's header from a corner hit the back of the net. At this stage Mali knew that the game in Sekondi was not going their way and they had to go forward to look for an unexpected equalizing goal. This gave the Ivory Coast opportunities and four minutes from time substitute Boubacar Sanogo gave them a third goal to seal the match. The Ivory Coast top the group with nine points from their three matches, while Nigeria and Mali each have four points. Benin finished last after losing all three games. Nigeria and the Ivory Coast join Ghana and Guinea, who on Monday finished first and second respectively in Group A, in the round of the last eight.

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