Nigeria in commanding heights

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. Beat Algeria 3 – 1 in W/Cup qualifier

By Simo Ojo

Chelsea forward, Victor Moses, scored twice to help Nigeria dispatch Algeria 3 -1 in a Fifa World Cup qualifier for Russia 2018. The match played at Akwa Ibom Sports Stadium, Uyo, Nigeria, started on a pacy note with the Nigerians trying to assert their authority on the pitch. Moses tested the Algerian goalkeeper 7 minutes on, when he fired a low shot to the Algerian goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi’s left, but narrowly missed the target. He broke the deadlock 18 minutes into the game after he appeared to have inadvertently passed the ball to an Algeria opponent, but the ball bounced back kindly to him to slot into the bottom right of the goalkeeper’s net.

The goal gingered up the Nigerian Super Eagles to pile on the attack, and this paid off when midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo fed captain John Obi Mikel who hesitantly put the ball into the net in the 42 minute, after erroneously thinking that he was offside. But he was indeed played on by an Algerian defender.

The first half ended with Nigeria 2 – 0 in command. However, the Algerians came on strongly after the break, with Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez spraying neat passes to his teammates. Striker Nabil Bentaleb collected one of such passes just outside the 18-yard box, and powered a thunderous shot past a badly positioned Daniel Akpeyi in goal for Nigeria in the 67th minute. This goal expectedly spurred on the Desert Foxes (Fennecs) who fluffed a number of chances to equalize.

Nigeria Manager, Gernot Rohr, however made some tactical changes to steady the Super Eagles defence, and also add some pace to the attack. Ahmed Musa of Leicester City came in for Alex Iwobi of Arsenal, defender Kenneth Omeruo gave way to Yusuf Abdullahi due to an injury, while Captain John Obi Mikel made way for a younger and defense-minded midfielder, Ndidi, with less than 10 minutes of regulation time remaining. Obi, who has not played for Chelsea in the Premier League this season under Italian Manager Antonio Conte, went off to a standing ovation from the fans having displayed a five-star performance in the heart of the Eagles’ midfield. Kelechi Iheanacho of Manchester City should have given Nigeria their third goal late on, after a neat lay on from Moses, but the young striker stabbed the ball over the bar with his less lethal right leg from practically six yards.

The Eagles’ defence marshalled by Leon Balogun, Elderson Echejile and Ogenyi Onazi withstood late pressure piled by the Algerians, and in a high-pace counter-attack, Ahmed Musa laid a cross to Victor Moses to rifle home from close range for his brace in injury time. The match was thus largely a Chelsea affair, but credit must also go to Oghenekaro Etebo, Leon Balogun (both of whom were having their first match under Rohr), Alex Iwobi and Akpeyi for outstanding displays.

Nigeria now leads Group B (which also includes Cameroun and Zambia) with 6 maximum points after 2 matches. Cameroun is placed second on 2 points while Zambia is on third with one point, just like Ageria on 4th but with inferior goal difference to Zambia.

In the other Fifa World Cup qualifiers played on Saturday, Senegal lost 2 -1 to South Africa in a Group D match in Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane City, South Africa; Zambia held Cameroun to a 1 -1 draw at Stade Omnisport in Limbe, Cameroun, while Uganda edged Congo 1 – 0 in Kampala in a Group E match. The result places Uganda on top of group E, but Egypt could regain the lead if they beat Ghana in another Group E match on Sunday.

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