17 November 2019
Nigeria’s Super Eagles had striker Victor Osimhen to thank today as they picked up a vital 4-2 win away to Lesotho in the high altitude of the capital Maseru.
Playing on an artificial turf at 5,500 feet above sea level, minnows Lesotho felt they had a chance against their more celebrated guests and took the game to the favourites early on in this 2020 Africa Cup of Nations Group L clash. Coming off their first group game, a 2-1 win against Benin Republic in Uyo on Thursday, Nigeria started sluggishly, misplacing passes and didn’t get their first shot on target until Osimhen tested the home goalie after nine minutes.
If the Super Eagles were thinking this match was a mere formality they were soon given a reality check two minutes later when Nkoto Masoabi sneaked behind fullback Ola Aina to head home a cross from the left past Daniel Akpeyi in the Nigerian goal. Akpeyi always gives the impression that he will let in any effort on target. The Kaizer Chiefs keeper was lucky that none of the opposition strikers was anywhere near the calibre of Osimhen, whose work-rate and self belief was befitting of a player setting the French first division alight with seven goals for Lille in nine league appearances.
Watch the highlights below.
However, Nigeria came close to leveling things with a fierce drive from an unexpected source – captain and defender William Troost-Ekong with a powerful drive from a 17th minute free-kick. Osimhen’s hard work paid off 10 minutes later as Lesotho were growing in confidence and were undone by their defenders trying to play out of the back. Osimhen robbed the defender, was lucky not to have a foul given against him, and he laid the ball on for Alex Iwobi to fire home from a tight angle.
The equaliser saw Nigeria start to dominate with Moses Simon coming close following a very good move, before Nigeria took the lead 10 minutes before half-time. Full-back Chidozie Awazien floated the ball to the middle where Osimhem had found space and his classy flick over the Lesotho defence was nodded past the goalie by Samuel Chukwueze.
Two minutes later, Osimhen came close to getting the goal his display deserved with a toe poke but his effort was a few inches wide. He came close again four minutes after the interval when he hit the crossbar after being let in on the left by an Iwobi pass. The 20 year old threatened again two minutes before the hour mark when his shot on the volley was saved.
But Osimhen was not to be denied, as Aina broke down the left on 74 minutes and delivered a low cross for the striker to stab home from close range. He got his brace 10 minutes later, running on to a through ball from sub Ramon Azeez and lifted it over the keeper.
Nigeria made the score a bit respectable for the hosts by conceding an Awaziem own goal in the 90th minute, but coach Gernot Rohr will be pleased by the six points in the bag from two games, even if the performance, with the exception of Osimhen, left a lot to be desired. At this stage, it’s the result that matters – qualifying for the tournament in Cameroon in two years’ time.
Osimhen is surely on his way to becoming Nigeria’s goal machine, following in the footsteps of legends such as Thompson Usiyan and Rashidi Yekini. It could have been very different in Maseru today without him in the Nigerian ranks. The Super Eagles also had the referee to thank for missing a blatant foul by Awaziem in the 69th minute which should have been a red card if VAR was being used in this game. Lesotho were only 2-1 down at the time and would have fancied their chances against 10 men.