AFCON Qualifiers: Nigeria finish top after defeating Seychelles

Nigeria sealed top spot of 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers Group E with a 3-1 win over Seychelles.

Though they already secured qualification in October last year, they needed a win against the Indian Ocean nation to be sure of a top-spot finish.

Well, they got it, despite struggling all evening.

Gernot Rohr’s side may have claimed victory in the dead-rubber, but they were largely disjointed throughout.

The three-time African champions failed to deliver a commanding performance at Stephen Keshi Stadium — with the team lacking creativity in the final third. And, it was not only the outfield players who struggled to get a foothold in the game. Goalkeeper Francis Uzoho made two blunders, with the second resulting in a goal.

The opening half hour was very slow and boring, though Odion Ighalo and Henry Onyekuru drew saves from the Seychelles goalkeeper.

Nigeria took the lead in the 34th minute when Odion Ighalo sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the penalty spot — taking his goals tally to seven — after Karl Hall was adjudged to have fouled Wilfred Ndidi.

But barely seven minutes later, Seychelles were level. Uzoho was tempted by a freekick. Once the Nigeria goalie committed, he had to reach the ball. However, the Anorthosis Famagusta goalkeeper failed to make any meaningful contact with the ball, allowing Roddy Melanie to volley into an empty net.

And just before the half-time whistle, Ighalo hit the side netting after turning away from his marker.

Nigeria were more assured after the break, but they still struggled to create clear-cut chances.

On 50 minutes, though, their lead was restored. Jamilu Collins picked out Henry Onyekuru, and the Galatasaray man nodded in unmarked.

After Onyekuru’s strike, the hosts were once again disjointed. Rohr responded by bringing on Paul Onuachu and Semiu Ajayi, but the substitutions failed to pay off.

Moses Simon then put the game beyond the visitors after replacing Ighalo, who limped off the pitch with an injury.

Collins attempted to dribble past a red shirt. It looked like he was dispossessed, only for the ball to inadvertently fall in the path of Simon, who created space for himself before firing in his first goal of the qualifying campaign.

Nigeria — who are going to make their first AFCON appearance since 2013 — will be joined by either Libya or South Africa. The two sides clash in Tunisia on Sunday. Bafana Bafana need just a draw to book a place in the biennial tournament. Libya, on the other hand, require victory to finish second in the group.

Rohr’s team will face Egypt in a friendly match on Tuesday. The German will be hoping to see his team put up an improved performance against the Pharaohs.