2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier: Swaziland 0-0 Nigeria

oliseh trainSwaziland forced Nigeria to a 0-0 draw in the second round, first leg 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifier played at the Somhlolo National Stadium, Lobamba on Friday night.

Nigeria head coach Sunday Oliseh this time opted for a centre-back pairing of Efe Ambrose and Godfrey Oboabona with Shehu Abdullahi and Elderson Echiejile playing as fullbacks.

The Super Eagles from the outset pressed high up against the King’s Shield of Swaziland but lacked the sharpness to open up the defence of Harris Bulunga’s men.

Tony Tsabedze was clearly the man pulling the strings for the King’s Shield and in the 23rd minute he let fly from distance but his effort was straight at Nigeria goalkeeper Carl Ikeme.

Five minutes later, Lazio midfielder Ogenyi Onazi saw his free kick palmed away by Nhlanhla Gwebu in the Swaziland goal and Sylvester Igbonu’s rebound attempt forced the custodian of the hosts into another save before Odion Ighalo turned the loose ball off target to let the southern Africans off the hook.

Though the Nigerians enjoyed the bulk of the ball possession at the half hour mark it counted for nothing as the Swazis’ confidence level grew as the game progressed.

Dlamini nearly headed them in front in the 31st minute from a corner and then a Nigerian error at the back almost gifted them a scoring chance a minute later.

But Oliseh’s charges finished the first 45 minutes better. Ighalo was slipped through on goal though he turned inside of his marker but had the ball cleared off his feet before he could shoot.

Before the start of the second half, Oliseh sent on Rabiu Ibrahim for Igbonu as he felt his team needed a creative spark from the middle of the park. Nigeria had the first chance of the business end of the game when Ighalo blazed over but it was Swaziland that showed a statement of intent.

Inside the opening five minutes of the second half, Mxolisi Lukhele and team captain Tsabedze got themselves into shooting range but failed to hit the target.

On 58 minutes, Onazi’s free kick from 25 yards came off the upright to the relief of Swaziland.

Four minutes later, it was the turn of Nigeria to have their hearts in their mouths when Ikeme was forced to make a point-blank save by Lukhele following a ball over the top.

The Swazis continued to be fearless in their approach but in the 65th minute Nigeria had a scoring chance when Ahmed Musa’s pass picked out Simon inside the box but the KAA Gent man’s attempt to create space and shoot was blocked.

In the last 20 minutes, Swaziland captain Tsabedze turned on the style with his mazy runs but his impressive play still could not unlock the Super Eagles’ backline.

Nigeria gaffer Oliseh tried as he could to get something out of the contest and sent on the attacking duo of Obafemi Martins and Kelechi Iheanacho, who made his international debut at senior level, but the Swazis held out for a famous draw in Lobamba.

The decisive leg of the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifier will take place next Tuesday when Nigeria play hosts to Swaziland at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt.

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