The Super Eagles enacted a virtuoso performance to earn a commanding 3-1 over Algeria’s Fennecs on Saturday and take full control of Group B of Africa’s 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying race.
Chelsea of England ace Victor Moses weighed in with a brace, and Captain Mikel John Obi, also of the same English Premiership club, scored the other few minutes before half time.
It was billed as a clash of the fiercest rivals in African football, and the full house at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, which included Nigeria’s number three man, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Sports Minister Solomon Dalung, former Akwa Ibom Governor Godswill Akpabio, Akwa Ibom Deputy Governor Moses Ekpo, NFF President Amaju Pinnick and other top dignitaries, was never disappointed.
Moses showed his hand as early as the seventh minute when he sliced his way past two Algerian defenders on the right, but saw his shot skip past the goalpost.
Arsenal of England’s Alex Iwobi, who scored Nigeria’s first goal of the qualifying campaign, against Zambia in Ndola five weeks ago, saw his snapshot go over the bar before Moses opened his account from an inspired move that also had Skipper Mikel Obi in the cast.
On the half hour mark, former world junior champion Kelechi Iheanacho, of Manchester City FC, who scored Nigeria’s second against Zambia and had scored in all of the Eagles’ four previous games before Saturday, watched as his diving header skimmed past Rais M’Bolhi’s blind side. In the 36th minute, the Fennecs broke down the left as Brahimi, who worked tirelessly all evening, whipped a pull –out that Nabil Bentaleb managed to put over the bar.
Three minutes to recess, Obi scored the second as the energetic Oghenekaro Etebo located him in the box and the Algerians failed to perfect their offside trap.
The Fennecs saw more of the ball in the second half, and scored when Bentaleb was allowed acres of space to pick his spot and drive the ball hard past a despairing Akpeyi halfway into the second period.
Yet, Moses, who enacted the kind of form that saw him named MVP of Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations –winning squad in 2013, had the last laugh when he finished off a marvelous counter attack started by Ogenyi Onazi and supported by substitute Ahmed Musa.
The win came on Nigeria’s 100th World Cup qualifying match, and banished forever the unsavoury memory of 12th November. It was exactly 39 years to the day that an own goal by Godwin Odiye against Tunisia in Lagos ended Nigeria’s 1978 World Cup dream.
The immediate gains include a firm grip on Group B, with the Eagles at six points against nearest opponents Cameroon’s two points, and Zambia and Algeria on one point each.
Nigeria should also expect to move up big on the FIFA ranking, having beaten Africa’s number three team, even as she stands at 12th presently in Africa.