Sone Aluko’s double was not enough to send the reigning champions into next year’s finals, with Congo edging into through behind Bafana Bafana from Group A
Nigeria are out of the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 despite coming from behind to hold South Africa to a 2-2 draw at the Akwa Ibom International Stadium in Uyo on Wednesday.
South Africa went into the clash against their Group A rivals having already booked their place at the 2015 finals, now due to be held in Equatorial Guinea.
However, though Sone Aluko denied Bafana Bafana a first competitive win over the Super Eagles, it was not enough to send Stephen Keshi’s men into the finals next year, with Congo’s win over Sudan enough to see them take second spot.
Bafana Bafana striker Tokelo Rantie nearly handed the visitors an early lead in the fourth minute after the Super Eagles defence made a mistake, but the Bournemouth forward ballooned his effort over the crossbar.
The hosts’ first chance of the match came four minutes later, when CSKA Moscow winger Ahmed Musa beat Bafana defender Erick Mathoho for pace before unleashing a powerful strike which hit the crossbar, with goalkeeper Dareen Keet rooted to the ground.
In the 16th minute, Musa had two great back-to-back opportunities, finding himself in a one-on-one situation against Keet twice. However, the Kortrijk shot-stopper denied the 22-year-old attacker on both occasions.
Keet was again called into action in the 24th minute, and this time it was Nigerian forward Ikechukwu Uche, whose strike from 30 yards out was well gathered by the South African goalkeeper.
In the 41st minute, Nigeria were made to pay for their profligacy. Rantie broke down the left into the box, before beating Super Eagles keeper and captain Vincent Enyeama at his near post to hand the South Africans the lead.
Just three minutes into the second half, former Orlando Pirates striker Rantie grabbed his second, out-muscling Nigeria centre-half Azubuike Egwuekwe on the edge of the box then hitting the back of the net.
Nigeria had a chance to pull one back in the 59th minute, when Fenerbahce striker Emmanuel Emenike won a free header inside the Bafana box, but the 27-year-old forward’s effort went straight at Keet.
The Super Eagles kept on pushing and pressing in search of a goal, and they were rewarded 10 minutes later, after substitute Aluko pounced onto a loose ball inside the box to make it 2-1.
In the 70th South Africa midfielder Letsholonyane was red-carded after collecting his second yellow of the night and Keshi promptly urged his side forward in search of the goals they needed.
The reigning Afcon champions grabbed a lifeline right at the death, with Aluko‘s low drive into the bottom corner offering a glimmer of hope.
However, time ran out on the game and Nigeria’s hopes of a place in the finals, with speculation over the future of Keshi sure to follow.