.Algeria failed to beat Cameroun in Algiers
By Duro Ikhazuagbe in Ndola
The Super Eagles yesterday claimed the first three points of Group B as the race to the 2018 FIFA World Cup got underway, leaving hosts Zambia rueing a poor start to the campaign in a difficult group. The win gives Nigeria a comfortable lead in the group after host Algeria and Cameroun played 1-1 in the other group match late lastnight.
it was the country’s first away win since November 2014, when goals by Ikechukwu Uche and Aaron Samuel earned Nigeria a 2-1 win over Congo in Pointe Noire, in a 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
Super Eagles took their chances in the first half with two goals, but after the interval Zambia fought back to pull a goal back, but it was too little, too late for the home side.
The capacity crowd including Zambian President Edgar Lungu, saw the home team almost got the openner in the third minute but goalkeeper Carl Ikeme parried the ball against the post. The shape of what was in the offing came to bear when Arsenal youngster Iwobi puts Nigeria in front from inside the box after poor defending by the home team.
After the initial efforts by the host, Skipper Mikel Obi took charge of matters in midfield, and Moses Simon, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho combined well to put the Zambia defence on its toes.
Ageless Collins Mbesuma, as well as Rainford Kalaba, Fwayo Tembo and Jackson Mwanza made Nigeria sweat on occasions, but after Iwobi swung a volley into the net for Nigeria’s opener in the 34th minute and Iheanacho sprang past Kennedy Nweene to score Nigeria’s second in the 45th minute, it was as good as over as a contest.
Although Mbesuma pulled one back for the Zambians in the 71st minute, the Super Eagles contained the opposition well and finished strongly.
It meant Franco-German Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr has won his two matches in charge of Nigeria since his appointment in August.
The President of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick said: “We commend the efforts of the players and the technical crew, and we thank the Minister of Sports for his words of encouragement before the match. We are happy with the three points but it is a marathon, not a sprint.
“We still have five matches to play. We will take it one match at a time. Next stop is ‘Operation Beat Algeria.’”
In a related development, the victorious team aside the result of the match had cause to smile as all their outstading financial obligation were met by the NFF.
They received their flight ticket refunds, match bonus for the AFCON qualifier against Tanzania last month as well as appearance fees for two friendlies in May against Mali and Luxembourg.
It is estimated that a player who was involved in all three matches would have received close to $8,000.
The win bonus for yesterday World Cup qualifier in Ndola is now the only payment outstanding for the Eagles.
Next month, Nigeria will welcome Algeria to Uyo in continuation of the World Cup qualifying series.
Zambia: Kennedy Mweene, Kabaso Chongo, Stopilla Sunzu, Adrian Chama (Kondwani Mtongo 48), Fackson Kapumbu – Nathan Sinkala, Fwayo Tembo (Roger Kola 81), Chisamba Lungu, Rainford Kalaba (skipper) – Collins Mbesuma, Winston Kalengo (Jackson Mwanza 56)
Nigeria: Carl Ikeme – Wilfred Ndidi, Elderson Echiejile, Kenneth Omeruo, William Troost-Ekong – Ogenyi Onazi (Shehu Abdullahi 90+2), Mikel Obi (captain) – Moses Simon (Ahmed Musa 83), Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho – Brown Ideye (Anderson Esiti 73)
RATING OF S’EAGLES’ PLAYERS
*Carl Ikeme: 8/10 -No doubt the ‘Man of the Match after several saves before and after Nigeria took the lead.
*Wilfred Ndidi: 5/10-I was the weak pawn especially in the second half. He made the left side of Nigerian defense line too vunerable to attack .
* Kenneth Omeruo: 6/10 -He struggled to deal with Collins Mbesuma, and could be exposed for good against Cameroon and, particularly, Algeria.
* William Troost-Ekong: 8/10 – Another star player of the match. A reliable bullet proof protection for goalkepper Ikeme.
* Elderson Echiejile: 6/10 – Not at his best. Appeared short of match fitness and looked lethargic in offensive moves.
* John Obi Mikel: 7/10 -Almost on the score sheet for the third goal in the first half. A steady presence in the midfield.
* Ogenyi Onazi: 7/10 -The energy remains as bountiful as ever, but Onazi still doesn’t offer too much else.
* Alex Iwobi: 8/10- Got the opener and a big relief to the team. Iwobi demonstrated his intelligence with his movement and passing, and is a magnificent asset to this young and exciting Eagles team.
* Moses Simon: 7/10 -Didn’t always appear on the same wavelength as his offensive partners after being given the nod-somewhat surprisingly-ahead of Ahmed Musa.
* Brown Ideye: 7/10 -A direct replacement for Odion Ighalo and was able to fill the gap.
* Kelechi Iheanacho: 8.5/10 – His sublime first-half goal was ultimately the winner.
WHAT THEY SAID
Wedson Nyirenda (Zambia)
Eagles punished us for complacency in the first half. We came back good in the second half but could not utilize our chances. We still have 15 points to fight for in the remaining matches. We have learnt a bitter lesson today. Our defense was in disarray
Gernot Rohr (Nigeria)
Good to pick first win away in opening game of the World Cup qualifiers.
Now with three points we can begin to look forward to doing well.
TEAMS P W D L GF GA GD Pts
Nigeria 1 1 0 0 2 1 1 3
Cameroon 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1
Algeria 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1
Zambia 1 0 0 1 1 2 -1 0