Eagles overcome Swaziland, hit group stage
• My tactics failed, Swaziland coach admits
• It’s work in progress, says Oliseh
Two second half goals from Moses Simon and Efe Ambrose brought the needed relief for Coach Sunday Oliseh and Nigerian soccer fans yesterday, as the Super Eagles kept their hope of a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup alive. It ended the ambition of Swaziland, who came into the game boasting of sending Nigerians to early bed.
It was the second leg of the knock out duel between the two countries, after the first leg had ended in a goalless draw in Swaziland last Friday.
Oliseh made three changes to the team that drew 0-0 in Swaziland. Sunshine stars’ Paul Onobi replaced Mikel Obi; Sharks’ Chima Akas came in for Elderson Echiejile and Austin Oboroakpo from Abia Warriors replaced Godfrey Oboabona.
The first half ended goalless with pressure mounting among the fans at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, but Moses Simon’s well taken free-kick in the 51st minute gave Nigeria the lead and calmed the nerves.
In the 75th minute, Obafemi Martins came in for captain Ahmed Musa and Ogenyi Onazi took the captain’s band as Nigeria went in search of more goals.
The Eagles’ improved attacking play eventually paid off but not from the expected source. Defender Efe Ambrose made it 2-0 for Nigeria in the 87th minute to send the Port Harcourt fans into jubilation.
Asides throwing open the gates of the stadium to encourage fans to fill the venue and cheer the Nigeria team to victory, the Eagles were also boosted by the Rivers State Government’s $20,000 per goal promise.
With the victory, Nigeria has now qualified for the group stage of the African qualifiers along with 19 other countries, who will be drawn into five groups for the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Head coach of Swaziland, Sihlangu Somnikati, was closed to tears yesterday seeing his World Cup qualifying dream ended in Port Harcourt.
He explained at the end of the match that he came to Nigeria with the hope of attacking the Eagles from the left wing, but saw a different formation.
“Beside, II lost four of my key players. My team caption is on suspension, two others injured and one of my attackers in writing examination back home,” he said.
On his part, Coach Oliseh simply said that the Eagles’ victory ‘is work in progress.”
Meanwhile, Ogenyi Onazi has appealed to Nigerians to be patient with the team.