By Carol V. Utulu
Asaba, March 22, 2019
The Super Eagles of Nigeria on Friday defeated the Seychelles national team 3 – 1 to top Group E in the 2019 AFCON qualification round.
The match, played at the 25,000 capacity Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, saw a mammoth crowd of fans cheering the Nigeria team to victory.
Goals from Odion Ighalo, Henry Onyekuru and second half substitute Moses Simon ensured victory for the Nigerian team.
The game which saw the Super Eagles struggle to stamp their feet in the first half, however gained momentum as the match progressed.
Ighalo broke the deadlock in the 34th minute after he converted a penalty kick to register the first goal of the game.
A Seychelles defender had fouled a Nigerian attacker in the penalty box, and Ighalo scored from the spot.
However, the Seychelles Pirates equalised in the 41st minute, after a blunder by Nigerian goalkeeper Francis Uzoho gave Seychelles striker, Melaine Rody an easy tap into an empty net.
The second half of the game however saw the Nigerian team dominating play, with total control of the midfield.
The domination eventually paid off in the 52nd minute when Henry Onyekuru found space to score at close range following a Nigerian counter-attack.
Nigeria’s coach Gernot Rohr made two changes in the late minutes of the second half, when he brought in Semi Ajayi to replace Alex Iwobi in the 75th minute.
Ighalo was also withdrawn to make way for dimunitive winger Moses Simon in the 87th minute.
Simon sealed the victory for the Super Eagles on the dot of 90 minutes, when he cut into the Seychelles defence to score the third goal for the Nigerian team.
After the match, Seychelles coach Gavin Jeane commended his team for a good game against the Nigerian team.
“I must say it was a good game. My players gave a good account of themselves against a big team in Africa.
“Seychelles is just a small nation, compared to Nigeria. We had a couple of missed chances. We will continue to work harder to correct our mistakes.
“We did not expect to qualify from this group, considering our opponents in the group, but we need the experience to develop our football,” Jeane said.
On his part, Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr lauded the performance of the Seychelles team against the Nigerian team.
He said: “I want to commend the Seychelles team. They played so well with great determination.
“The team has improved so much. They played better than they did in the first leg in Seychelles.”
On the performance of the Super Eagles, Rohr said the team did well also, most importantly as they have topped the group with 13 points.
He said the team would now focus on preparations to do well at AFCON 2019 when the tournament kicks off on June 21 in Egypt.
“The Super Eagles impressed especially in the second half of the game.
“Our target is to win convincingly and top the group, and that we have achieved today.
“We will now focus on building the team stronger so that we can have a good outing in Egypt when AFCON 2019 kicks off,” Rohr said.
In another of the AFCON matches, Angolan striker Wilson Eduardo scored on his debut as they beat Botswana 1-0 to qualify for the expanded 24-team finals being hosted in Egypt.
Eduardo, a former Portugal junior international, netted midway through the first half to ensure his side’s passage to the continental championships scheduled for June 21 to July 19.
However, the game was delayed for 30 minutes after half-time by a partial floodlight failure.
Angola have missed the last two Nations Cup tournaments, but secured their passage as Group I winners having leapfrogged Mauritania.
Mauritania lost 0-1 at Burkina Faso but had already sealed their place in Egypt before the final round of qualifiers.
Bertrand Traore scored the first half winner for the Burkinabes, who needed Angola to slip up with bottom side Botswana.
Nigeria clinched top spot in Group E with a 3-1 home victory over the Seychelles with a below par performance.
Morocco, who will be among the favourites at the finals, were held to a 0-0 draw away to Malawi in Group B in Blantyre.
Substitute Rachid Alioui struck the post with two free kicks in the 81st minute and in stoppage time.
In Group A, Equatorial Guinea’s Emilio Nsue scored two first half goals in a 4-1 away victory in Sudan.
The two teams are however already out of the running for a place in Egypt.