The Super Eagles devoured the Crocodiles of Lesotho 3-0 in Lagos in their final AFCON 2022 qualifying match courtesy of goals by Victor Osimhen, Oghenekaro Etebo, and Paul Onuachu.
Osimhen opened Nigeria’s goals account for the day in the 23rd minute before turning into the provider in the 50th minute for Etebo to make it 2-0. Second-half substitute, Onuachu, who took the place of Osimhen, then wrapped up the scoring with a sumptuous volley on 83 minutes to hand the Super Eagles a comfortable win on the occasion of their first competitive match in Lagos in 20 years.
For many of the players, it was the first time in a long while that they would be playing football in a stadium with that many spectators, as a few thousand fans were allowed into the Teslim Balogun Stadium, while for fans who trouped into the match venue, especially those old enough to recall matches involving the national team at the derelict but still imposing National Stadium, it was a performance close to what they would have expected from the Nigerian team of that long-ago era when visiting teams dreaded playing before Lagos fans.
Gernot Rohr made four changes from the starting-XI that started last Saturday’s win against Benin, bringing in the trio of Etebo, Tyronne Ebuehi and Alex Iwobi for Joe Aribo, Ola Aina, and Henry Onyekuru. Goalkeeper Francis Uzoho also took the place of Maduka Okoye.
But he kept faith with the attacking pair of Osimhen and Kelechi Iheanacho and those two combined effectively to find the back of the net on 20 minutes only for Osimhen’s effort to be ruled out for offside.
Four minutes later, there was no denying Osimhen, and Iheanacho a deserved assist, as the Napoli striker got on to the end of a threaded pass from the Leicester City forward, before jabbing the ball past an advancing Sekhoane Moerane.
Television replays showed it was a very close call and one that could have gone either way. But six minutes later, it was the turn of the Crocodiles to be denied what appeared to be a goal after a fortuitous rebound from a well-struck rebound. However, the assistant referee’s flag wrongly went up for offside and the goal was disallowed.
That was the only notable attack from the southern Africans though, and five minutes into the second-half, Etebo got on the end of a well-worked move by the Eagles with a placed effort from eight yards out to make it 2-0 for Nigeria, latching onto an unselfish cutback from Osimhen, who could well have shot at goal but opted to pass to the Turkey-based midfielder.
After a number of spurned attacking moves by the Super Eagles, Rohr introduced Onuachu and Onyekuru for the tired pair of Osimhen and Onyekuru in the 76th minute, and seven minutes later, both substitutes combined effectively to make it 3-0 with Onyekuru finding Onuachu in the penalty area before the Belgium-based striker fired a volleyed effort past a rooted Moerane.
Three minutes after Onuachu’s second goal in as many matches for Nigeria, Ahmed Musa came on for his 96th cap alongside young Enyimba playmaker Anayo Iwuala, replacing the pair of Iheanacho and Samuel Chukwueze. But the outcome of the game was already a foregone conclusion as the Super Eagles savoured the praises from Lagos fans and possibly hoping it won’t be long before they return to this football-mad city and the stadium named after one of the foremost legends of Nigerian football – Teslim ‘Thunder’ Balogun.