- …Fail to fly in Swaziland
Coach Sunday Oliseh tutored Super Eagles, yesterday failed to beat football rookies, Swaziland as they were held to a goalless draw by their host in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying match played at the Somhlolo National Stadium, in Lobamba.
The game was not only drab, but lacked the technical and tactical discipline the national team is reputed for. Besides, the Super Eagles did not exhibit any playing pattern as players merely played individual football.
Coach Oliseh, opted for a centre-back pairing of Efe Ambrose and Godfrey Oboabona with Shehu Abdullahi and Elderson Echiejile playing as full-backs.
Eagles from the outset pressed high up against the King’s Shield of Swaziland but lacked the sharpness to open up the defence of Swaziland.
Super Eagles goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme, saved the day for the Nigeria side as Tony Tsabedze, the play maker in the Swaziland squad was clearly the man pulling the strings for the King’s Shield and in the 23rd minute would have scored, but Ikeme came to the rescue.
Five minutes later, Lazio midfielder, Ogenyi Onazi, saw his free kick palmed away by Nhlanhla Gwebu in Swaziland goal and Sylvester Igbonu’s rebound attempt forced the custodian of the hosts into another save before Odion Ighalo turned the loose ball off target to let the Southern Africans off the hook.
Though at the half hour mark, the Super Eagles had 44 per cent ball possession more than their hosts, it counted for nothing as the Swazis’ confidence level grew into the game.
Dlamini nearly headed them in front in the 31st minute from a corner and then a Nigerian error at the back almost gifted them a scoring chance a minute later.
But Oliseh’s side finished better in the first 45 minutes. Ighalo slipped through on a goal, turning inside of his marker, but had the ball cleared off his feet before he could shoot.
According to SuperSport.com Oliseh sent on Rabiu Ibrahim for Igbonu at the start of the second half, as he felt his team needed a creative spark from the middle of the park. Nigeria had the first chance of the business end of the game when Ighalo blazed over, but it was Swaziland that showed a statement of intent.
On 58 minutes, Onazi’s free kick from 25 yards came off the upright to the relief of Swaziland.
Four minutes later, it was the turn of the Super Eagles to have their hearts in their mouths when Ikeme was forced to make a pointblank save by Lukhele following a ball over the top.
In the 65th minute Eagles had a scoring chance when Ahmed Musa’s pass picked out Simon inside the box, but the KAA Gent man’s attempt to create space and shoot, was blocked.
Oliseh trying to get something out of the contest, sent on the attacking duo of Obafemi Martins and Kelechi Iheanacho, who made his international debut at senior level, but the Swazis held out for a famous draw in Lobamba.
Meanwhile, the Super Eagles face a daunting task in the decisive second leg of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier, as the Nigerian side play host to Swaziland on Tuesday next week at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt.