Abuja, Nov. 17, 2019
Nigeria on Sunday stayed solid at the top of their qualifying group for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations with a convincing win against Lesotho in Maseru.
This was after a brace by Victor Osimhen and goals by Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze steered them to 4-2 win over the hosts.
As has happened in recent times with Nigerian teams, the Super Eagles (who also conceded a second minute goal to Benin in Uyo on Wednesday before rallying to win 2-1 on Day 1 of the qualifying series), fell behind after 11 minutes.
This was when Nkoto Masoabi rose highest between two defenders to nod powerfully beyond Daniel Akpeyi after the Crocodiles broke on a counter attack.
This was only a minute after Osimhen had rattled goalkeeper Moerane Sekhoane with a stinging shot from outside the area.
In the 17th minute, William Ekong’s flying free kick from 24 yards was parried by Sekhoane, and nine minutes later, Alex Iwobi brought Nigeria level following hard work by Victor Osimhen.
The former U17 World Cup winner saw his pull-out intercepted by a defender, chased the defender, retrieved the ball neatly and passed to Iwobi to drive into the net at the far post.
Five minutes later, Osimhen again rattled the Crocodiles’ goaltender, but in the 36th minute there was to be no stopping Nigeria.
Chukwueze rose between two taller defenders to nod home a well-weighted pass from Osimhen for the Super Eagles’ second of the evening.
Livewire forward Osimhen still had time for two attempts before half time.
In the second half, Nigeria went all out and after Osimhen had clipped the crossbar and saw another shot parried to safety, the gangling forward slid full length to score Nigeria’s third from a cross by defender Ola Aina in the 74th minute.
Osimhen again worked hard to create a glorious chance for substitute Ahmed Musa in the 80th minute, but the captain inexplicably missed from inside the box.
Fittingly, the Lille of France forward would score a second, latching onto a brilliant pass by substitute Ramon Azeez to poke beyond Sekhoane in the 84th minute to virtually assure of the maximum points.
However, defender Chidozie Awaziem enabled a respectable scoreline for the home team when he diverted a pull-out into his own net with Akpeyi wrong-footed and with only two minutes left in regulation time.
With six points and six goals, the Super Eagles have started this race well and strong.
Home matches against Lesotho and Sierra Leone will be completed by trips to Sierra Leone and Benin Republic in the final phase of the qualifying series in 2020.