W’Cup: Eagles beat Swaziland to progress

Nigeria on Tuesday qualified for the group stages of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers with a 2-0 victory over Swaziland. The match was played at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt.
Goals from Moses Simon and Efe Ambrose in the second half of the encounter gave the Super Eagles the needed win against 10-man Swaziland after a goalless first leg in Lobamba on Friday.
The Eagles have thus joined such other countries as
Gabon, Ghana, Zambia, Uganda, Guinea, Congo DR, Morocco, Libya, Cameroon, South Africa and Congo in the group stages of the qualifiers. The draw for the final phase will be done next year with qualifiers played between 2016 and 2017.
The top five teams from the group stages, which will have four teams each, will represent the continent in Russia.
Nigeria needed a win against the Swazi, who are ranked 134th in the world, after the first leg ended goalless. Coach Sunday Oliseh, who had expressed confidence about his team’s chances, made five changes to the starting line-up in Lobamba.
Swaziland coach, Harries Bulunga, gave thumbs up to the Nigerian bench for the changes made in the starting line-up. He said the changes affected their game plan.
“The changes the Nigerian coach made to the starting line-up helped them and actually affected our plans. We planned to exploit the slow pattern of the Nigerian midfield but that didn’t work because those who played today were much faster,” Bulunga said.
Oliseh surprisingly dropped Chelsea’s Mikel Obi, preferring to start Sunshine Stars Paul Onobi. Onobi has been a quality part of the Eagles B team that qualified for the Championship of African Nations in Rwanda next year. The other changes from the starting team in Swaziland meant that Chima Akas of Sharks was picked ahead of Elderson Echiejile of AS Monaco in the French league and Abia Warriors central defender Austin Oboroakpo was listed instead of Turkey-based Godfrey Oboabona.
Coach Oliseh hailed his players for their sense of urgency in the match.
He said, “Today, we have played well and we have secured the result we needed. But the truth is that we can do much more than this and we will strive to play better with every game.
“The changes we made today were effective. What it shows is that we use the best players available at any given time and we will always do that. It doesn’t matter if you play at the moon; the most important thing is what you are able to do on the pitch. A player’s country of residence doesn’t matter; what matters is giving us quality performance.”
The Eagles dominated the early exchanges of the match as they searched for the goals. Nigeria got the first chance of the game in the second minute when Oboroakpo headed over the bar from a corner kick.
Swaziland’s match tactics of defending and hitting Nigeria on the counter was going according to plan as their backline defended waves of attack from the Eagles. Ighalo, who was Nigeria’s top striker, was never given a breathing space as he was marked out.
In the 12th minute, the Watford striker had a rare shot at goal but shot straight at the Swazi goalkeeper. Ighalo had another chance in the 31st minute after a pass from Onobi found him but he could only shoot wide.
Swaziland had a chance to go into the lead in the 33rd minute after a cross found Sandile Hlatjwako, who shot over from close range. Indeed the 33rd minute miss was the closest the teams ever got at scoring in the first half.
The Eagles got the first goal in the 53rd minute from a free kick curled into the top corner by Moses after Igbonu had been fouled close to the Swazi goal area. They doubled the lead in the 87th minute after Ambrose tapped in another free kick played in by Igbonu from the right side of the Swazi goal.
Swaziland fought to reduce the tally as they forced Ikeme to make a save in the 83rd minute from a Njabulo Ndlovu shot. But they were reduced to 10 men in the 90th minute after Phumlani Dlamini got a second yellow card for a foul on Onazi.
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 (captain)