Nigeria beat Libya 3-2, go top of 2019 AFCON qualifying pool

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The
Super Eagles perched atop the Group E of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations
qualifying series for the first time after a hard –fought 3-2 win over Libya in
Sfax on Tuesday.
For
large swathes of the game played in a thinly –populated Stade Taïeb Mhiri, Gernot
Rohr’s wards bossed the proceedings. But they somewhat allowed the Libyans into
the game before nailing it with minutes to go.
Having
not scored in 13 months, including all pre –World Cup friendlies and at the
FIFA World Cup finals in Russia, former junior international Odion Ighalo added
two to the hat –trick he netted in Uyo, for a total of five in three days,
effectively abbreviating the Mediterranean Knights’ chances of earning a place
in Cameroon next year summer.
Nigeria
took it straight to the hosts from the beginning, and after nine minutes, Alex
Iwobi stole from a fumbling Sand Masaud on the right but his cross was cut off
by defender Motasem Sabbou. Four minutes later, Nigeria went ahead after Ighalo
did the simplest of tap –ins following a brilliant combination between Iwobi
and Captain Ahmed Musa.
Installed
in one corner of the stadium, members of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club
made their presence felt with dancing, drumming and singing, and their
performance appeared to match the rhythm of the Eagles’ flowing game. It was no
surprise, given the extent of domination, when Ahmed Musa scored the second
after beating two defenders in the box from a pass by Ighalo.
Somehow,
the Eagles took their feet off the pedal, allowing the Knights into the game,
and it took an alert Etebo to heave the ball away as Mohamed Zubya cocked the
trigger from a goalmouth melee. Five minutes later, the Libyans again came
close when goalkeeper Francis Uzoho uncharacteristically punched the ball
instead of cuddling it.
In
the 25th minute, Nigeria could have been 3-0 up but Ighalo’s pass to Iwobi from
a quick counter was well –read by Mohamed Abdussalam. Nine minutes later, Libya
got a lifeline as Mohamed Zubya nodded into the net from a flicked header off a
free kick.
In
the second period, the Eagles re –integrated and once more, bossed proceedings.
But Iwobi wasted too much time from a counter and lost the ball in the 50th
minute, before Zubya’s shot was blocked and Uzoho parried Ahmed Ben Ali’s shot
over the bar.
Iwobi
flashed a shot away in the 67th minute and Aina was alert to divert a ball
meant for Ben Ali five minutes later, but a minute later, Libya were level as
the irrepressible Ben Ali shot past Uzoho from close range as the Eagles’
defence was caught napping.
Nigeria
would have the last word, as Ighalo, from a teasing lob by substitute John Ogu
that was headed down by Musa, drove past the Libyan defence and blasted past
goalkeeper Ahmed Azzaqeh.
Victory
took Nigeria to nine points after four matches, one above South Africa’s Bafana
Bafana who drew 0-0 with Seychelles in Mahe Island earlier in the day. Libya
have four points while Seychelles have only one.
Next
up for the Super Eagles is a potentially –explosive duel with Bafana Bafana in
a top-of-the-table clash at Johannesburg’s Soccer City on 17th November.

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