Nigeria was held to a one all draw by Algeria in their final World Cup Qualifier match on Friday, away at the Stade Mohamed Hamlaoui in Constantine. The Super Eagles which has already secured a place in Russia next year fielded some fresh legs for the game as the Gernot Rohr led team was looking to finish the qualifying campaign unbeaten while Algeria now coached by one of its footballing greats, Rabah Madjer hoping for a spell was looking to start off a new era following a disappointing World Cup Qualifying campaign which saw them finish last in the group without a win.

The Desert Foxes mounted an early pressure in the third minute as Islam Slimani of Leicester City made an attempt at goal but failed to beat goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa. Nigeria’s first real chance came in the 20th minute after Oghenekaro Etebo  fed a ball through for Abdullahi Shehu but his shot went straight into the hands of Algeria’s shot stopper, Faouzi Chaochi. Both sides were very cautious in defence although there were instances of initiatives going forward to get a goal but had to settle for a barren going into the break in front of the Algerian fans that trooped out in their numbers to cheer their team on.

The second half kicked off and it was the home side that almost drew the first blood in the 52nd minute. Sliimani once again was as the back end as his effort to release a shot was hindered by Leon Balogun who was Nigeria’s captain on the night. Three minutes later, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi whose goal secured Nigeria’s World Cup ticket in Uyo against Zambia forced goalkeeper Chaouchi to pull off a superb save to keep the game goal less.

The home team should have gone a goal up in the 61st minute as Aissa Mandi headed over the bar after Ezenwa had the ball slip through his hands from a corner kick. John Ogu gave Nigeria the lead after his sublime left-footed rocket outside the goal area of Madjer’s, found its way at the back of the net in the 62nd minute. Slimani almost pulled one back for Algeria five minutes later but missed a sitter after failing to put the the ball into an empty net which left the home fans in despair.

Yacine Brahimi was awarded a controversial penalty for Algeria and the FC Porto man did not disappoint as he converted from the spot sending Ezenwa the wrong way to level the game at one all in the 88th minute and denying the Super Eagles maximum points. The game ended with both sides coming out neither victors nor vanquished as the Super Eagles ended their qualifying campaign unbeaten. The Super Eagles prepares for the international friendly against South American giants Argentina on Tuesday.

Earlier, Senegal became the third African team to qualify for the World Cup after a 2-0 win away to South Africa which ensured the West African side a second appearance at the World Cup after reaching the quarter-finals in 2002 when the tournament was hosted by South Korea and Japan. Diafra Sakho gave the 2002 Nations Cup finalists the lead the 12th minute after he was set up by Liverpool winger Sadio Mane. The Terranga Lions got their second of the night after Mane had his shot saved minutes before half-time, which was rebounded by defender Thamsanqa Mkhize for an own goal in the 38th minute.

The match win which put Senegal on 11 points in their group was a replay after South Africa had defeated them  2-1 a year ago, only for FIFA to find out that the result was manipulated by Ghanian referee Joseph Lamptey, who has been handed a life ban for his actions.

Both sides will meet again in Dakar for their final group game but it will be a game of no consequence and only a cause for the home fans to celebrate their team’s success of booking a place in Russia next year.

Chinedu Victor.





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