Nigeria’s new coach Jose Paseiro started his competitive career as Super Eagles manager on a nervy note as his team snatched all three points with a 2-1 win over Sierra Leone in a Group A 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the MKO Abiola National Stadium in Abuja on 9 June 2022.
Sierra Leonian striker Morsay stunned the home fans watching on Television and a few officials at the stadium with a perfectly executed headed ball to the turf to beat goalkeeper Francis Uzoho in the 11th minute.
In the absence of home supporters at the stadium, due to a CAF one match ban, the 12th man advantage and inspiration was badly needed to spur the Eagles into action.
Midfielder Alex Iwobi came to the rescue with a sumptuous finish off a Moses Simon pass on 16 minutes.
The Everton man after receiving the ball from Simon on the edge of the penalty area, opened up his body to guide the ball coolly and low into the left hand corner of the Leone Stars goalkeeper Mohammed Kamara on 32 minutes.
Sparked into action by the equaliser, the Eagles conjured up a one touch football to shoot ahead.
A delightful reverse cross by the impressive right back Ola Aina picked up Moses Simon who nodded down into the path of Victor Osimhen for a stab home to make it 2-1 in the 41st minute.
After several hairy moments on both ends of the pitch, the Super Eagles were able to see out a 2-1 win over the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone to place 2nd in the group behind Guinea Bissau who hammered Sao Tome and Principe 5-1.
Next up for Nigeria is Sao Tome and Principe in an away game scheduled for 13 June 2022.
Before then enjoy player ratings of the Super Eagles players in the the 2-1 victory over Leone Stars.
Francis Uzoho GK – 5
The keeper looked a bit jittery, lacked communication with his center backs. Thou was not at fault for the goal as the Sierra Leonian striker Morsay executed perfectly his header which bounced off the turf towards the last angle. Wouldn’t be surprised if coach Paseiro benches him for the next set of games.
Ola Aina – 7
Provided a delightful secondary assist for Eagles winning goal by Osimhen. The Torino man stamped some huge presence on the attacking right hand side but got lost upfront most times to gift the Leone Stars the opportunity of exploiting gaps he left at right back.
William Troost Ekong – 4
Despite making some last ditch tackles, the Watford player looked a shadow of himself as he was burned for pace by Bakayoko n Morsay on a couple occasions. His interaction with partner Ajayi was missing while his distribution from the back was nonexistent. However he was vocal enough to keep his teammates organised.
Samuel Ajayi – 4
The 28 year old West Bromwich Albion defender looked suspect through out the match. A miscommunication between him and the keeper almost gifted Bakayoko the chance of equalising in the second half. Despite his huge frame, Ajayi was easily bullied off the ball by the Leone Stars attackers.
Calvin Bassey – 6
The inform Scottish Rangers player whipped in some nice crosses in the second half and was strong with his challenges. Though he was primarily at fault for losing Morsay who scored the opener for Sierra Leone. Overall he was energetic and looked the part as Nigeria continues to search for her next Celestine Babayaro.
Moses Simon – 8
Two assists and some decisive plays earned the newly crowned French Cup Champion some top marks. A different type of Simon surfaced at the MKO Abiola National Stadium as the flying winger resisted the urge to hog the sideline, instead concentrated on running at the heart of the opposition and positioning himself properly in the penalty area for any slip ups. Though his tracking back was missing but it’s nothing to worry about as Bassey provided some insurance.
Joe Aribo – 6
Another Rangers man who battled hard everywhere on the pitch. Looked out of sorts in the first half when he played deep without invention worthy of a number 10 shirted player. Needs to own this team and dictate the pace from the middle.
Alex Iwobi – 8
Fresh from escaping relegation in the Premier League with Everton, Iwobi scored a sumptuous goal by guiding the ball into the left hand side of the opposing keeper to equalise for Nigeria. Constantly tracked back in the first half to nullify his attacking creativity up front but probed more with passes into danger areas when Etebo came on in the second half. May be should swap jersey numbers with Aribo.
Samu Chukwueze – 5
A bundle of talent that needs to evolve into a clinical and decisive player after showing huge promises from his FIFA U17 days to Villarreal. Bumped into Aina a couple times on the attacking right. Poor crosses by not looking up to pick his man, and missed a glorious chance to redeem himself when he fluffed a one on one situation with the goalkeeper after Osimehn had placed the ball on a platter for him.
Victor Osimehn – 9
The 14 goal hero in the Italia Serie A with Napoli was his usual busy and energetic self all thru. He jabbed in Nigeria’s winning goal after a headed knockdown by Simon. Made his physical presence felt all over the pitch with resolve and determination. This time around the bicycle kicks at goal were absent and the much needed goal arrived.
Sadiq Umar – 4
Hooked after the first half where he looked unsure of his role. Having scored 18 goals for Almeria in the Spanish second division last term to gain promotion, the towering striker should’ve been oozing confidence against the Sierra Leonians, but the second striker role he was deployed as may have curtailed his abilities. It will be nice to watch out for him in the La Liga this up upcoming season.
Oghenekaro Etebo – 5
The former Warri Wolves midfielder slotted into the regista role rather in a scattergun manner, earning an unnecessary yellow for a pullback foul after trying so hastily to get things ticking from deep. The caution calmed him down and he dictated the pace of Eagles play afterwards. But his lack of enough games at Watford showed in his non 100 percent match sharpness.
Kenneth Omeruo – 4
Replaced the injured Ekong and put up a descent display. Brought a bit of calmness at the back and passed from deep comfortably.
Ademola Lookman – 4
The Leicester winger was his lively self as usual. Kept pegging back Leone Stars defenders with direct runs and dribbles.
*Shehu Abdulahi and Terem Moffi couldn’t do enough to register a mark as a result of late substitution.
Coach Jose Paseiro – 6
The Portuguese showed some tactical flexibility when he switched from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 after bringing on Etebo in place of Umar who failed to form a combo with Osimhen upfront. Could’ve been his instruction to Simon to play closer to opponents’ goal instead of hogging the sideline. His intention of solving Eagles midfield headache was clear with the deployment of two attacking personnel in the first half, and bringing on Etebo in the second 45 to provide deep lying assurance for Iwobi n Aribo to explode in advanced areas. A win against the plucky Sierra Leonians will calm frayed nerves within his backroom staff after he debuted with Nigeria with back to back friendly losses to Mexico and Ecuador in the US.