When it seemed Nigeria was about to succumb to a rejuvenated Libyan team in the second half of their African Nations Cup Group E qualifier in Sfax, Tunisia, Odion Ighalo rose to the occasion with a match winning goal to hand the Super Eagles another away victory in the race to Cameroon.
It was the reverse fixture of their African Nations Cup qualifying matches played in Libya’s adopted home of Tunisia.
In the first leg of the encounter in Uyo five days ago, Ighalo’s three goals in the 4-0 defeat of Libya ensured the Eagles went into yesterday’s game in buoyant mood.
And the Nigerians looked as if they would continue from where they stopped in Uyo when Ighalo and Captain Ahmed Musa put Gernot Rohr’s side 2-0 up in the first half. But the Mediterranean Knights put Super Eagles’ fans on their seat’s edges when they pulled one goal back in the 33rd minute through Zubya and leveled scores in the 74th minute through Benali.
Sensing that Nigeria’s defence and goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho were out of sorts, the Libyans went in search of the winning goal.
However, their enthusiasm was dampened by Ighalo’s backbreaking goal in the 81st minute. It was Ighalo’s fifth goal in two meetings with the Libyans. The Eagles held on to the lead till the end of the game.
With yesterday’s victory, Nigeria climbed to the top of Group E on nine points, one higher than second placed South Africa, which could only manage a goalless draw with Seychelles in Victoria.
Libya, who are third on four points, could still qualify if they beat Seychelles and South Africa in their last two games of the series. Nigeria needs only a draw in one of the two remaining games to be sure of picking one of the tickets to Cameroun.
Nigeria and the Bafana Bafana will meet in South Africa next month, while the last set of games will see the Super Eagles hosting Seychelles with Libya entertaining South Africa.
Madagascar defeated Equatorial Guinea 1-0 to become the first country to qualify for the 2019 African Nations Cup.
Playing in Cameroun will be Madagascar first time in Africa’s elite competition.