The Super Eagles of Nigeria had to stage a comeback to beat Sierra Leone 2-1 at the Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja.
Two goals from Alex Iwobi and Victor Osimhen were enough to turn Jonathan Morsay’s 11th-minute opener into an ordinary consolation goal.
The victory was Jose Peseiro’s first in his three games as Super Eagles coach and his first game win in his first competitive match in charge of Nigeria.
Prior to the game, the last time the Sierra Leone side came visiting, it ended 4-4 in Abuja. However, Thursday’s fixture was not as dramatic, but the game was a pretty interesting one.
Soccernet.ng takes a lot at some important facts and takeaways from the result.
The scoreline flattered the Sierra Leoneans
The Super Eagles had a decent performance against the Leone Stars. It was not the best performance considering the gulf in quality between both teams, but Peseiro’s boys turned up for the show, especially after going down.
Nigeria were the better side on the evening, keeping the bulk of possession. The three-time champions also had 15 goal attempts, nine more than the visitors. But for profligacy seen in some instances, resolute defending by the Lone Stars and the brilliance of Mohamed Kamara in the Sierra Leone goal, it could have been a comprehensive trouncing for the Leone Stars.
Simon can not continue taking set-pieces
It is sad and quite heartbreaking the Nantes man Moses Simon is still the preferred set-piece taker for the Super Eagles.
The importance of set plays in the round leather game can never be overemphasized. Teams all around the world live for set plays. Teams that plan have set-piece technicians that are always on hand to swing in deadly crosses.
However, such is not the case in the Super Eagles, as the set plays are wasted time and again by Simon. A good player on his day the Nantes man is, but set-pieces is not his niche.
And it is sad because there is an Osimhen who scored the most headed goals in the Serie A last season, there is also a Semi Ajayi who is adept in aerial situations, especially from corner-kick situations, not forgetting Sadiq Umar who stands at 6ft3″.
In fact, Nigeria could have conceded in the first half when the Leone stars capitalized on a poor decision from Moses in a set-piece situation.
Nigeria had 15 free kicks, but none threatened the Sierra Leone goalkeeper.
Moving forward, Peseiro has to make a decision.
Nigeria has to stop conceding early goals, the defending has to be better
Peseiro has been coach of the Super Eagles for three games, and in his first match against Mexico, Nigeria conceded first in the 12th minute. Against Ecuador, Nigeria was already behind in the third minute, and against lowly Sierra Leone, the Super Eagles conceded in the 11th minute.
Certainly, something is wrong with the defensive setup. Troost-Ekong did a poor job closing down Kamara to prevent him from taking the cross which provided the assist, and Bassey did an even poorer job of tracking the run of Morsay who scored.
At times, the defense looked in sixes and sevens, all over the place and confused. Or perhaps it can even be agreed that Nigeria lack quality in defense, especially centrally, as William Troost-Ekong had a horrific season at Watford as he struggled to get playtime. Even Ajayi his partner is yet to prove himself as a sturdy centre-back having started as a defensive midfielder. A Leon Balogun could surely do a better job!
Peseiro has to work on this immediately if he wants to succeed because you could stage a comeback against Sierra Leone or Mauritius, but a top team may not be as friendly.
If Peseiro faces a stronger opposition, playing without a DM will get him crushed
Peseiro chose to start the game without a defensive midfielder and it showed. Iwobi and Aribo have hardly played as defensive midfielders in their career, despite their versatility, and it was quite clear that they struggled. Even the defenders had more work to do as there was no one to support them. The Lone Stars cut through Nigeria like hot knife through butter in the opening exchanges and looked to have an overload on the team with the defenders constantly exposed.
It was a major reason why the Sierra Leoneans had a lot of dangerous attacks in the first half. There was no one to break down play and recycle.
He soon realised his mistake and brought on Etebo after the break, and the difference showed. Etebo had a decent outing in the middle of the park with Aribo.
Peseiro’s tactics may have resulted from underrating the Leone Stars or it may have been just pure ignorance. Nonetheless, if he tries it against a team that has better midfielders, Nigeria could get overrun.
Iwobi is revitalized, and he could be the joker when he is in his elements
Iwobi had a topsy-turvy season with Everton. He struggled for form with his ailing Everton side. However, since Iwobi returned from the last Africa Cup of Nations where he had a terrible outing, the former Arsenal man has turned a new leaf.
Iwobi played an important in helping the toffees stay alive, and he brought that to the Super Eagles. Iwobi was very good in midfield, asides from the goal he scored, his touches, passes, and connection with the attack was great.
Still, it is not the first time that Iwobi would show this level of brilliance. Iwobi’s bane is consistency, and reliability especially when Nigeria faces a stronger team.
Osimhen is the best striker the country has at the moment
At the rate that Osimhen is going, it is only going to take a matter of time for him to surpass the greatest Nigerian striker, Rashidi Yekini in the Super Eagles’ goalscorers chart.
His runs, hustle without the ball, hunger, and pace is undeniable. Osimhen is always committed to the national team cause, and he always scores as a reward for his industry.
Awoniyi was decent at the last Africa Cup of Nations, but when juxtaposed with Osimhen’s performance, the Napoli man just about edges him. He trumps every other attacker in the team and Dessers has a tough battle on his hands usurping the 11-goal forward.
It was Osimhen’s goal that ensured the victory for the Super Eagles.