Saturday, November 15, 2014

Critical win in Brazzaville with one more to go

Nigeria's 2-0 win in Brazzaville today was critical and keeps hope alive as the team awaits the next game in Uyo against a South African team that has already qualified for the 2015 Cup for African Nations. Nigeria must now be considered in the driver's seat and on the way to qualification.

Nigeria opened the game in dominant fashion but it must be said that very few clear chances was created by the team. The only chances came with headers off corner kicks especially one in which Mikel Obi barely missed the far end in the 20th minute. But as Nigeria became frustrated by its lack of clear chances, Mikel increasingly launched long balls which Uche rarely won up front. Nigeria's lack of ideas clearly gave the home team confidence to take complete control of the game in the last 15 minutes. Importantly, Congo was able to create clear chances where Nigeria failed earlier. Three times, Congo miscued in front of Nigeria's gaping goal. The reality was that Nigeria was saved by the half time whistle and the consolation that it was still 0-0.

Congo was on the ascendancy in the opening 15 minutes of the second half. Nigeria's middle had "died" with Onazi making passing miscues and Akpan contributing very little. That Nigeria scored in the 57th minute was a surprise as it was against the run of play. The goal itself was a piece of excellent work with Mikel sending Emenike through, forcing the goalie to foul the latter deep in the box. Uche converted to the goalkeeper's right. But it was always going to be tough for Nigeria to protect the goal, particularly with Congo playing confidently. And so it was. Five minutes later, Oboabona was judged to have handled in the box. However, Enyeama, who had a superb game, stretched fully to punch away the attempt from the spot. As Congo became more desperate, Nigeria increasingly found holes in Congo's defense. Coach Keshi made deft substitutions bringing in two players who were at the core of the second goal. Aluko struck a pass to the much-maligned Aaron Samuel who left footed a shot into the far corner of the net. It was his second goal in the last two games.

Angry Congolese fans began to throw objects into the arena prompting match officials to stop the game. Stephen Keshi had one more day to live after this win and he is proving to be a cat with many lives.

Line-up with rating (1-10, 10 being outstanding)
Vincent Enyeama (cpt-1) 9 - Efe Ambrose (5) 5, Azubike Egwuekwe (6) 7, Godfrey Oboabona (2) 6, Juwon Oshaniwa (13) 6 -- Ogenyi Onazi (17) 6, Mikel Obi (10) 7, Hope Akpan (12) 5* (52nd Sone Aluko (11) 6) -- Emmanuel Emenike (9) 6 (70th Aaron Samuel (4) 6.5), Ikechukwu Uche (15) 6, Ahmed Musa (7) 6 (85th Gbolahan Salami (18)x).

Cautions:  Oboabona (62nd) and Onazi (67th)
* injured