Nigeria needed two second-half goals to go past a stubborn Swaziland Tuesday and advance to the next round of the qualifying tournamen...
After a scoreless first half, Moses Simon put Nigeria finally in front after 51 minutes courtesy of a sublime free kick before Celtic defender Efe Ambrose tapped home a second goal three minutes from time. Phumlami Dlamini of Swaziland was sent off in the closing minutes of this intriguing match-up for a second booking.
Nigeria coach Sunday Oliseh sensationally dropped Chelsea midfielder Mikel Obi for Sunshine Stars Paul Onobi and it was a gamble that paid off as the Eagles midfield was a lot more creative than it was in Swaziland last week. Domestic league stars Chima Akas and Austin Oboroakpo were also preferred to their Europe-based counterparts as Nigeria went for broke against a team ranked 71 spots below them by FIFA.
As expected visiting Swaziland sat back in their defence, but Nigeria failed to break their resistance in the first 45 minutes or were very poor in their finishing. Skipper Ahmed Musa, Moses Simon and Watford striker Odion Ighalo all had chances to calm the nerves of the big crowd at the Adokiye Amiesemaka Stadium in Port Harcourt, but they failed to do so.
After half an hour, Ighalo was clear of goal but his shot with only the goalkeeper to beat screamed way off target. But three minutes later, Swaziland came close to break the deadlock but Sandile Hlatwako, who scored a t brace against Djibouti in the previous round of the qualifiers, ballooned his shot from deep inside the Nigeria box.
Moses Simon’s superb free kick goal soon after the interval calmed many nerves after Sylvester Igbonu missed a sitter in the 47th minute with the entire Swaziland defence including the goalkeeper at his mercy. His scoffed shot missed the target somehow. Ighalo was full of endeavor but ineffective and in the 72nd minute, Moses Simon had a chance to get a brace but his low shot from inside the box was firmly held by goalkeeper Gwebu. Swaziland were not done yet as in the 83rd minute, Ikeme made his biggest save of the day when he tipped away for a corner an audacious lob by Njabulo Ndlovu, which was heading for goal.
Efe Ambrose’s "striker's" goal in the 87th minute off a free kick by Igbonu will then put the game beyond a resolute Swaziland side, who must certainly be proud of what they produced against the more illustrious hosts even without their inspirational skipper Tony Tsabedze.
Nigeria starting XI vs Swaziland - Carl Ikeme – Shehu Abdulahi, Chima Akas, Austin Oboroakpo, Efe Ambrose – Ogenyi Onazi, Paul Onobi, Sylvester Igbonu – Moses Simon, Odion Ighalo, Ahmed Musa (Skipper)
Swaziland starting XI – Gwebu – Mandla Palma, Dlamini, Mdluli, Nxumalo, Mthunzi Mkhontfo, Dlamini, Njabulo, Sanele Mkhweli, Phumlami Dlamini, Hlatjwako