Nigeria 3-1 Seychelles: Late Simon Goal adds Gloss to Underwhelming Encounter
The game looked to be petering out. Nigeria were 2-1 up against the Pirates of Seychelles, in a rather monotonous affair. The first half was hardly exciting, and the second period didn’t even meet the previous 45. And as the game entered stoppage time, Moses Simon took Jamilu Collins’ rather inadvertent pass, and produced a brilliant turn and shot that beat Seychelles goalkeeper Alvin Michel at his near post. It was a particularly pleasing moment for Simon, who hasn’t quite gained a foothold in the national side since his injury in 2017, and here he even came as a sub. It was also the highlight of a not-so entertaining affair at the Stephen Keshi stadium in Asaba, as Nigeria closed out their Nations Cup qualifying campaign.
The game was of little importance, Nigeria had already booked their place in the African Cup of Nations in Egypt next June, while Seychelles were guaranteed to finish bottom of this group, the only thing on offer was sealing top spot, which really mattered little. But coach Gernot Rohr had spoken pre-match of wanting to see a strong performance, and the German named a strong line-up, the only surprise fixture in the starting eleven was Kenneth Omeruo in place of Leon Balogun.
The game was dominated by the Super Eagles, as Seychelles sat back and offered little, as they did in the reverse fixture in September. But little amounted from Nigeria’s constant possession, the final was lacking, as was any form of invention, as the team continues to look incapable of breaking down a side that sits deep. Oghenekaro Etebo fired a free-kick over, while Wilfred Ndidi saw his scuffed shot crawl to the opposition goalkeeper’s grasp via a mild touch from Odion Ighalo.
But the latter two would play a part in the Eagles taking the lead in the final third of the half. Ndidi was brought down in the box by Jude Nancy, and the referee’s decision to award a penalty sparked Seychelles protests, which saw striker Karl Hall receive a booking. Ighalo stepped up and sent Michel the wrong way, his seventh goal in this qualifying session, now out on his own as the leading scorer.
Nigeria were comfortable, and that opener seemed like a settler, only a Michel save denied Etebo from adding another from a free-kick. But out of the blue, Seychelles found their equaliser. A seemingly harmless free-kick was floated in, but Eagles goalie made a mess of the ball, and his gaffe allowed Rody Melanie to poke the ball into an opponent. Nigeria almost regained the lead before half time, but Ighalo hit the outside of the post from a tight angle.
Minutes after the break, they would go back in front, as a brilliant Collins cross was headed in by an unmarked Henry Onyekuru. The game continued its dreary pace afterwards, Seychelles being even more listless, Nigeria being even more sloppy. Alex Iwobi, who’s been starring in this qualifying session, had a quiet game, and was replaced by Paul Onuachu, the Midtjyland striker making his international debut, but he had little impact.
There was also a slight delay after two players from opposing sides needed treatment, before Etebo took off, leaving the stage for Simon to grace, and the latter had the final word.