Senegal and Nigeria both faced surprise quarterfinalists in Benin and South Africa, and both found out their opponents were no slouch, requiring slim one-goal victories to reach the semifinals of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Up first in thee day, Senegal topped Benin 1-0 on a 69th minute strike by Idrissa Gueye who burst straight down the heart of the Benin defense and took a feed from Sadio Mane before slotting home the winner. For much of the game, Benin’s defensive shape locked Senegal down, as the favorites held 63% possession but could only manage four shots on target to Benin’s three.
Mane was the most incisive Senegal attacker, and he saw two goals wiped off the board by VAR checks for offside. It looked that Benin actually may take a shock lead early in the second half as Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis nearly put one clumsily into his own net, but the potential own-goal skittered wide and Gueye struck soon after. Benin defender Olivier Verdon, who just joined La Liga side Alaves this summer, was sent off late for a foul on Gueye to essentially seal the match.
Nigeria was also under threat of upset as they took on South Africa, but a late winner from Udinese defender William Troost-Ekong gave them a 2-1 victory and a spot in the semifinals. The 89th minute decider was bundled home by the 25-year-old after South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams whiffed looking to punch a corner.
That proved vital as previously, Samuel Chukwueze’s first-half goal off his blocked first attempt cancelled out a 71st minute effort from Bongani Zungu. The South Africa equalizer survived a contentious VAR check that appeared to confirm a blatant offside, but the assist came off the back of Odion Ighalo so the goal stood.
With both winners into the semifinals, Senegal will draw the winner of Madagascar and Tunisia, while Ivory Coast and Algeria battle for a chance to meet Nigeria in the semis. Both those remaining quarterfinals take place tomorrow, with the semifinals set for July 14 in Cairo.