The Super Eagles of Nigeria are through to the playoff round of the 2014 World Cup qualifying matches, thanks to their 2-0 victory over The Flames of Malawi at the UJ Esuene Stadium, Calabar on Saturday.
Emmanel Emenike and Victor Moses scored the two vital goals which sunk coach Tom Saintfiet’s tough-talking side and ended their aspirations to grace the Brazil World Cup while Eagles brace up for a fifth appearance at the soccer showpiece.
Stephen Keshi favoured an attack minded team with CSKA Moscow wing ace Ahmed Musa deployed to the midfield while Nnamdi Oduamadi, Emenike and Moses played upfront in his usual 4-3-3 formation.
Nigeria controlled much of the early game but lacked the finishing touches to an impressive play on the slippery pitch as a result of the heavy downpour prior to the match.
Chelsea forward Moses was unable to break the Flames’ defence but won a corner-kick four minutes to the half hour mark and then hit the side netting from the corner as the moments of prodding continued.
Ambrose then saw his shot parried by goalkeeper Simplex Nthara after latching on a cut back from Musa in the 34th minute.
Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama was less troubled by his opponents as the visitors wasted a series of opportunities from dead ball few minutes to the interval.
Emenike shot home a superb effort past Simplex after a cross from Ogenyi Onazi on the half-time dot to hand the Super Eagles the much deserved lead.
Despite a resolute defending from the Malawians, they allowed the Eagles returnee sneak behind to score the massive goal and calm down the nerves of the hosts supporters at the stadium.
The second-half got off well for the hosts and Musa soon had a one-on-one opportunity to extend the lead but allowed Simplex gather safely to keep the Flames in the game.
Nigeria won a spot kick six minutes after the restart as Oduamdi was brought down in the area and Moses stepped up to extend Eagles’ lead with his fifth international goal.
With victory in sight for the Group F leaders, Flames were soon reduced to ten men. Limbikani Mzava got sent off for a second bookable offence after a foul on Musa on the edge.
Keshi’s boys decided to pass around and try open up the Malawian defence after the hour mark but the visitors, having gone one-man down, were out for an equalizer.
Enyeama was later called into action and had to make two key saves for Nigeria before the 65th minute.
Musa fluffed another one-on-one chance against the Malawian goallee three minutes later.
Emenike failed to score with the empty net yawning for the ball after receiving a pass from the tireless Musa in the 74th minute.
Second-half substitute Shola Ameobi came close to netting his first goal for Nigeria on the dead of 90 minutes but saw his effort blocked by Simplex as the Super Eagles got away with a two-goal victory and the ticket into the final round of the qualifiers ahead of next week’s playoff draw.