Nigeria’s Super Eagles pulled off a superb 2-1 win in Zambia to get their 2018 Fifa World Cup qualification off the mark with a victory on Sunday.
The England-based duo of Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho scored two first-half goals to help Gernot Rohr’s men to a first competitive win in Zambia. Collins Mbesuma got Zambia’s goal.
Rohr opted for changes from the team that defeated Tanzania last month in Nigeria in a dead-rubber Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi and Moses Simon, who was feared as a doubt as at last month, started while Musa Mohammed and Ahmed Musa were left out of the startlist.
As expected the Zambia head coach, Wedson Nyirenda, picked Tembo Fwayo, Chisamba Lungu, big striker Collins Mbesuma, captain Rainford Kalaba for this game.
Three minutes into the game, Fwayo’s cross clipped the top of the crossbar after Nigeria goalkeeper Carl Ikeme made an error in his judgment of the flight of the ball.
Olympiakos striker Brown Ideye, on 15 minutes, was slipped through on goal by Iheanacho, but his lob over Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, went off target though the flag was already up for offside.
Fwayo then whipped in a low cross into Nigeria’s box in the 19th minute, Mbesuma held off his marker well and tried to set up Winston Kalengo whose heavy touch allowed Elderson Echiejile to clear.
Arsenal man Iwobi then broke the deadlock on 32 minutes when he fired from inside the box after the ball fell kindly for him. Mweene could only get a tip of his fingers to the ball but Iwobi’s right-footed strike had too much power behind it to be stopped from going in for the opener.
Iwobi’s goal was what the Nigerians needed to get themselves into the groove as they held the ball better than in the opening minutes.
Three minutes before the break, Nigeria doubled their lead via some short passing play among Iheanacho, Mikel John Obi and Ideye.
It was Manchester City youngster Iheanacho who received the final ball and rounded Mweene, took two touches before scoring to give Rohr’s men a 2-0 lead going into the break.
In the second 45 minutes, whatever Nyirenda told the Chipolopolo in the locker room paid off as they had the Nigerians under the cosh for most of the business end of the game with Fwayo causing the defence of the West African nation all sorts of trouble.
Ikeme had to save from Mbesuma, Kalaba and Jackson Mwanza to keep Nigeria’s 2-0 lead in tact while Mikel had his dipping effort tipped over by Mweene at the other end.
But a defensive error by Kenneth Omeruo allowed Mbesuma to fire in a low shot past Ikeme to give Zambia a lifeline with 19 minutes to time.
The Zambians continued to press for the equaliser with Kalaba, Mwanza, Rodgers Kola and Mbesuma all involved.
Nigeria will play hosts to Algeria in their next match in the qualification in November.