The first meeting between Nigeria and Swaziland ended 0-0 on the plastic pitch of the Somhlolo National Stadium in Lobamba on Friday evening, in the opening round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The Super Eagles had more ball but failed to create scoring chances although Nhlanhla Gwebu had to make multiple saves from Godfrey Oboabona and Ahmed Musa in the first half, and Moses Simon’s free-kick that came off the post in the second half.
Given, the plastic pitch did little to help the Nigerians.
The first half started twice as Moses Simon had a clash of heads with 22 seconds into the encounter and both players needed treatment. Moses resumed with a bandage around his head while his opponent had to have protection for a suspected broken nose.
The home side sat back and elected to play on the break and resorted to shots from distance with the first on target from their captain, Thulani Tsabedze, testing Carl Ikeme on 23 minutes after he had received a yellow card for deliberate hand ball.
In the 32nd minute, Oboabona almost gifted the Swazis an opening with a misplaced pass. The Rizespor defender looked jittery on the ball and was yellow-carded in the 44th minute when he kicked a Swazi defender when he should have crossed the ball.
The half ended with the Nigerians crowding the referee seeking explanation for some rash calls.
The second half started with Rabiu Ibrahim on for Sylvester Igbonu. Ighalo got an immediate sniff at goal from a defensive mistake but he blazed over. In the early minutes, slack passing in the midfield created chances for the home side and Tsabedze came close with a shot on 49 minutes.
The Eagles should have taken the lead on 58 minutes from a set piece. Ighalo was brought down on the edge of the box and Simon stepped up on the kick which hit the right post and bounced off Gwebu to safety. Ikeme was called upon to save Efe Ambrose’s blushes in the 61st minute after Mikel Obi was robbed of the ball.
The pitch had a lot to play in the lack of chances as the ball bobbled away as play got quicker in the last third and the Eagles tried to play balls in behind the defenders.
Ibrahim was taken off after being on the pitch for just 21 minutes as Kelechi Iheanacho got his debut. Obafemi Martins was also thrown on for Mikel with 19 minutes left on the clock as Oliseh sought a win against 132nd ranked team in the world.
Five minutes was added and Ambrose almost won the tie but his header, two minutes into added time, grazed the bar.
The two teams will now go all over again on Tuesday in Port Harcourt as they seek to qualify for the last round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
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