Nigeria ended their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualification campaign on a sound note with a 3-1 victory over the Pirates of Seychelles.
Already qualified Nigeria were out to build on their recent run of form when they hosted the Pirates at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba on Friday afternoon.
The Super Eagles already booked their AFCON ticket, having recovered from an opening round defeat to South Africa by leapfrogging Bafana Bafana and duly booking their place at this year’s tournament with a 1-1 draw in Johannesburg last year.
The Super Eagles needed the three points against Seychelles to top the Group E, with second-placed South Africa taking on Libya on Sunday.
Udinese Calcio defender William Troost Ekong had the chance to put the Eagles in front but he headed straight to goalkeeper Ian Ah-Kong from close range. Wilfred Ndidi was also denied by the keeper.
Nine minutes into the game, the visitors almost stunned the hosts but goalkeeper Francis Uzoho was smart enough to come off his line to produce a timely save.
From then on, it was cases of misplaced passes and missed chances as the two teams struggled to come to terms with the Pitch at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba.
The Eagles were handed the opportunity to draw the curtain raiser in the 35th minute when Wilfred Ndidi was fouled by Saminadin Gervey. Karle Hall was booked for dissent.
Shanghai Shenhua forward Odion Ighalo easily discharged the goal from the penalty spot. He sent Kong the wrong way for his seventh goal of the qualifiers.
In the 38th minute, Oghenekaro Etebo was foiled by the Seychelles keeper, who brilliantly saved his free kick.
Uzoho gifted the Pirates the leveller in the 40th minute. He spilled a tame free kick to the path of Rody Melanie who volleyed home.
Ighalo ghost past his marker before pulling the trigger. The keeper dived low to make the dipping save.
It was 1-1 at half time with more in the offing from the two sides.
Bayern Munich and PSG target Henry Onyekuru headed home a measured left-wing cross from Jamilu Collins for the Eagles’ second goal in the 50th minute.
Lanky striker Ebere Onuachu was handed his Eagles debut as he replaced Etebo. In-form Semi Ajayi came off the bench for the ineffective Alex Iwobi.
Substitute Moses Simon lightened up the mood of fans with the Eagles’ third goal in the first minute of additional time. He fired low beyond Kong. Jamilu provided the assist.
Nigeria have won the AFCON tournament on three previous occasions, most recently in 2013 when the tournament was hosted in South Africa.