Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nigeria 1-0 Mozambique: Last-Gasp Winner keeps Nigeria In World Cup Race

Nigeria on Saturday only just kept alive their dreams to feature in next year's World Cup finals after they pipped a resolute Mozambique 1-0 at a deserted Abuja National Stadium.

The match was in stoppage time and looked like Nigeria were crashing out of the World Cup qualifiers, before substitute Obinna Nsofor headed home from six yards after goalkeeper Joao Kapango had first kept out Obafemi Martins close-range shot, before the ball was hooked back into the box for Nsofor to head home

Tunisia remain at the top of Group Two with 11 points after the beat kenya at home also by a lone goal, while Nigeria are second on nine points, meaning the last round of matches next month will now have to determine who qualifies for the World Cup.

Mozambique were resolute from start to finish to the utter frustration of the Nigerians, whose fans showed their disappointment for last month's 2-2 draw with Tunisia at the same venue by staying away from the stadium.

Under-fire Nigeria coach, Shuaibu Amodu, made seven changes from the team that started last month's qualifier against Tunisia with Everton striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Elderson Echiejile from Rennes and Switzerland-based Yusuf Mohammed among the changes.

The game got off to a slow, cautious start as Nigeria went on the attack from the first whistle, while Mozambique tried to keep their shape in defence. After 10 minutes of action, there was very little to choose between the two teams.

It was not until the 18th minute that the first real shot at goal came, and it was the Mozambicans, who would have opened the scores when skipper Tico Tico let fly a powerful shot inside the box only for Nigeria to be saved by the crossbar as the shot crashed against the woodwork and back into play.

The visiting Black Mambas appear to gain in confidence after this close effort as they began to pass the ball between them so much so that it was not after that they enjoyed more ball possession.

The Super Eagles were forced to make a change in the 29th minute when right fullback Yusuf Mohammed limped out to be replaced by Bolton defender Danny Shittu.

As the match wore on, Nigeria began to really threaten the vistors' goal. First, in the 33rd minute Michael Eneramo delivered low cross from the right flank, which took a slight deflection inside the box but goalkeeper Joao Kapango did well to get a hand to it to deny a lurking Osaze Odemwingie a chance to make hay.

Three minutes Odemwingie dribbled into the Mozambican 18-yard box from the left only for his final ball to be cleared out for a corner by an alert defence. Groningen midfielder Oluwafemi Ajilore then cracked a powerful shot from the edge of the box which the agile Kapango kept out and ensure the first half ended without a goal.

A minute after the break, Odemwingie's curling free kick was punched away from danger by Kapango. The Locomotiv Moscow striker had a good chance to get on the scoresheet from another free kick after Eneramo was brought down by Mano, but again Kapango was alive to his responsibilities.

Besides a 61st minute Obafemi Martins, which brushed against the crossbar, the Black Mambas kept their shape, stringing passes between themselves and even sometimes having the confidence to launch a few counter attacks, one of which forced enyeama to tip a dangerous shot for a corner.

A left-footed shot by Odemwingie in the 82nd minute was blocked by the impressive Mozambican goalkeeper. In the 87th minute, Martins failed to tap home from less than five yards to sum up a sad day for Nigerian football.

But in time added on, the prayer of millions of Nigerians was answered through Nsofor's last-gasp winner.

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