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Nigeria dedicate Angola win to Salisu Yusuf, says Ikechukwu Ezenwa

Salisu Yusuf & Ikechukwu Ezenwa of Nigeria Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Nigeria goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa has paid tribute to Salisu Yusuf after Sunday's victory over Angola, and revealed that the team have dedicated their win to the head coach.

The home-based Super Eagles came back from a goal down to see off Angola 2-1 in the quarter final in Tanger, with Ezenwa praising Yusuf's composure and enduring belief in his players even after they fell behind.

Indeed, despite combating a series of absences due to injury and illness, as well as Va's 56th-minute opener, Yusuf remained a calm and unruffled presence on the touchline, retaining a conviction in victory that was transmitted to his players.

"I saw the time was 88 minutes, I looked at the bench and I saw my coach standing there, believing we could score," Nigeria skipper Ezenwa told KweséESPN.

"I told my players we could score, we could equalise and we could win this game," he added. "Just believe in yourselves."

They left it late, but Nigeria duly levelled the contest in the second minute of stoppage time when Anthony Okpotu met Rabiu Ali's header to fire past Landu to take the match to extra time.

Buoyed by Yusuf's unswerving touchline confidence, the Eagles enjoyed the better of the additional time, and sealed victory when substitute Gabriel Okechukwu slammed home in the 109th minute.

"I believed that we could score," Ezenwa continued. "That's why you can see, when we equalised, I ran straight to the coach to congratulate him for never giving up in the team.

"It was a great one," he concluded. "Everyone's dedicating this victory to the coach because it wasn't easy."

Ezenwa was named Man of the Match following a fine individual display in which he repeatedly kept the Angolan attackers at bay as Nigeria's forwards missed a series of chances.

Yusuf's belief in his team was epitomised by his persistent faith in Okpotu, who remained on the pitch despite repeatedly finding himself thwarted by Angolan defending, keeper Landu or his own finishing.

While other coaches may have opted to withdraw the NPFL top scorer, who arguably hasn't shown his true quality yet this tournament, Yusuf kept faith, and was rewarded with the late equaliser.