Two strikes from the penalty spot earned Nigeria all three points against the Lone Star of Liberia at the Grand Stade de Tangier, Morocco on Saturday, and set up a tantalizing FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying Group C finale at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos on Tuesday.
Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks came back from a goal down at half time to surmount the Wild Beasts of Central African Republic 2-1 in a simultaneous encounter on the island of Mindelo, meaning the Eagles maintain their two-point cushion at the top of the pool and need only a draw on home soil on Tuesday to reach the potentially –explosive final round scheduled for March 2022.
The results in Tangier and Mindelo also meant Liberia and Central African Republic, who play in Tangier on Tuesday, are out of the running and all eyes will be on the game in Lagos to produce the group winner. Nigeria are on 12 points while Cape Verde are on 10.
Victor Osimhen took his tally in the qualifying series to three goals when he slammed home from six yards in the 14th minute, after strike partner Kelechi Iheanacho was scythed in the box as he proceeded to beat goalkeeper Wynney de Souza from a long pass.
Both teams spent much of the time sizing each other up, with the Super Eagles failing to seize on the momentum offered by the first goal to dominate and out-muscle the ‘hosts’ in front of an empty arena. The Lone Star showed some sparkle and got behind the Eagles rearguard on two occasions only to be denied by an alert Maduka Okoye.
Workhorse Moses Simon toiled at the fore and at the rear throughout to keep the right side of the Super Eagles going. In the 28th minute, the Super Eagles thought they had scored a second when defender Jamilu Collins strung the ball past de Souza, only to be ruled off-side by Tunisian referee Youssef Essrayri.
Osimhen, energetic and vibrant, should have made it two for Nigeria minutes later, but shot into the sky with only de Souza to beat.
In the second half, both teams had chances to score but it was Nigeria that added to their tally in added time when Osimhen got behind de Souza after being sent through by Iheanacho, only to be upended by Souza.
It gave captain Ahmed Musa, who on the day became Nigeria’s senior caps’ record holder by playing his 102nd game, the opportunity to score from the spot.