AFCON 2021 QUALIFIER: Super Eagles Hammer Lesotho 4-2 to Stay on Course  

L-R: Alex Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo and Jamilu Collins celebrating Nigeria's bronze at the last AFCON 2019 in Egypt. Nigeria defeated Benin Republic 2-1 yesterday to start the AFCON 2021 qualifiers with maximum points

Duro Ikhazuagbe

A brace and an assist by Victor Osimhen plus two other goals by Alex Iwobi and Samuel Chukwueze gave the Super Eagles a 4-2 victory against Lesotho in Maseru yesterday evening.

The victory keeps Eagles perched on top of Group L of the qualifying round of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

As it has become the sad tradition of Nigerian teams of late, Super Eagles fell behind after 11 minutes when Nkoto Masoabi rose highest between two defenders to nod powerfully beyond Daniel Akpeyi after the Crocodiles broke on a counter attack.

This was only a minute after Osimhen had rattled goalkeeper Moerane Sekhoane with a stinging shot from outside the area.

Only last Wednesday in Nigeria’s opening game of the series against Benin Republic, Eagles also conceded a second minute goal to the Squirrels in Uyo before rallying to win 2-1.

In the battle of Maseru yesterday William Ekong’s flying free kick from 24 yards in the 17th minute, was parried by Sekhoane, and nine minutes later, Alex Iwobi brought Nigeria level following hard work by Victor Osimhen.

The former U17 World Cup winner saw his pull-out intercepted by a defender, chased the defender, retrieved the ball neatly and passed to Iwobi to drive into the net at the far post

Five minutes later, Osimhen again rattled the Crocodiles’ goaltender, but in the 36th minute there was to be no stopping Nigeria as Samuel Chukwueze rose between two taller defenders to nod home a well-weighted pass from Osimhen for the Super Eagles’ second of the evening.

Livewire forward Osimhen still had time for two attempts before half time.

In the second half, Nigeria went all out and after Osimhen had clipped the crossbar and saw another shot parried to safety, the gangling forward slid full length to score Nigeria’s third from a cross by defender Ola Aina in the 74th minute.

Osimhen again worked hard to create a glorious chance for substitute Ahmed Musa in the 80th minute, but the captain inexplicably missed from inside the box.

Fittingly, the Lille of France forward would score a second, latching onto a brilliant pass by substitute Ramon Azeez to poke beyond Sekhoane in the 84th minute to virtually assure of the maximum points.

However, defender Chidozie Awaziem enabled a respectable scoreline for the home team when he diverted a pull-out into his own net with Akpeyi wrong-footed and with only two minutes left in regulation time.

With six points and six goals, the Super Eagles have started this race well and strong. Home matches against Lesotho and Sierra Leone will be completed by trips to Sierra Leone and Benin Republic in the final phase of the qualifying series next year.

Also yesterday, Benin Republic made up for their defeat in Uyo last week by picking all three points in their clash Sierra Leone.

In Group A of the qualifiers, Chad Republic lost 0-2 to Mali while Guinea defeated Namibia 2-0.

Mali and Guinea are join leaders while Namibia are just a point short.

In Group B, Uganda defeated Malawi 2-0 while South Sudan lost 1-2 to Burkina Faso

Uganda and Burkina push Malawi down from the top of the table.

In Group C, South Africa’s Bafana Bafana snapped a 1-0 victory against  Sudan. It was sweet recovery for South Africa that lost their opening game to Ghana.

In Group I, Eswatini lost 1-4 to Teranga Lions of Senegal while Congo Republic hammered Guinea-Bissau 3-0 to pick maximum points.

Senegal win their second match of the campaign and establish a three-point gap over the other teams in the group.

Cameroon made it a 1-0 away in Kigali against Rwanda after playing a draw at home on Match-day 1. The Indomitable Lions assume leadership of the group temporarily.