The Super Eagles of Nigeria has claimed the first three points of Group B as the race to the 2018 FIFA World Cup began on Sunday, leaving hosts Zambia rueing a poor start to the campaign in a difficult group.
A marvelous team performance saw the Eagles win a competitive away at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
The Zambian team were given a boost when President Edgar Lungu stormed the venue to lead the support.
The Super Eagles started with some hard running, but William Ekong and Kenneth Omeruo in the Nigerian heart of defence were very alert. Goalkeeper Carl Ikeme pushed a shot from the right over the crossbar as early as the second minute, and eventually made a total of eight saves including from close range bullet headers.
After the initial efforts by the host, Skipper Mikel Obi took charge of matters in midfield, and Moses Simon, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho combined well to put the Zambia defence on its toes.
Ageless Collins Mbesuma, as well as Rainford Kalaba, Fwayo Tembo and Jackson Mwanza made Nigeria sweat on occasions, but after Iwobi swung a volley into the net for Nigeria’s opener in the 34thminute and Iheanacho sprang past Kennedy Nweene to score Nigeria’s second in the 45th minute, it was as good as over as a contest.
Although Mbesuma pulled one back for the Zambians in the 71st minute, the Super Eagles contained the opposition well and finished strongly.
this means that Gernot Rohr has won his two matches in charge of Nigeria since his appointment in August 2016.
NFF President, Amaju Pinnick said: “We commend the efforts of the players and the technical crew, and we thank the Honourable Minister of Sports for his words of encouragement before the match. We are happy with the three points but it is a marathon, not a sprint.
“We still have five matches to play. We will take it one match at a time. Next stop is ‘Operation Beat Algeria.’”
The Super Eagles next game is against Algeria in Uyo, Akwa Ibom on 12th November.
NFF/ Aisha JM