Nigeria moved a big step towards qualification for a sixth World Cup appearance after a blistering 4-0 win over African Champions Cameroon in Southern Nigerian city of Uyo on Friday.
Like the biblical Moses, Chelsea star Victor Moses spearheaded one of Nigeria’s most comprehensive qualification displays in four years with a Man-of-the-Match display.
Nigeria thought they had gone ahead on 24 when Moses’ free kick bounced in at the far post but referee Ghead Grisha adjudged striker Odion Ighalo had interfered with play in an unfair manner on Cameroonian goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa.
Four minutes later, the Eagles worked the ball down the right and through Moses Simon who raced past his marker Serge Leuko. His cross at the far post met his namesake Victor Moses cushioning a header over the bar.
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Nigeria deservedly went ahead just before the half hour mark when captain John Obi Mikel found Odion Ighalo with a lofted pass from the centre circle. It indeed left Ighalo with still more work to do but the Changchun Yatai forward obliged with a combination of power and intelligence to shrug off Teikeu and hit a left footed effort into the bottom corner.
What followed was a spell of Cameroonian possession without penetration. Their hosts content to sit back and watch them pass around while they wait to attack with purpose.
With nine minutes left in the half, Victor Moses cut in from the left and found Simon Moses with a slide rule pass but the Genk star’s first time effort was brilliantly saved by Ondoa.
Signs of an imminent Nigerian goal stared the Cameroonians in the face four minutes to the break when Mikel turned his marker and freed his former club mate Victor Moses down the left. The Chelsea man chose to square for a lurking Ighalo inside the box but his attempt was cut out by a last ditch tackle by Ngadeu.
From the ensuing corner, Nigeria doubled their lead. Odion Ighalo dummied on Victor Moses’ corner, allowing Mikel to toe-poke to the roof of the net from five yards.
The Eagles were cheered off the pitch and back at the start of the second half as they majestically maintain their impeccable start to the game.
The visitors effected a change at half time, bringing on returnee Maxim Choupo-Moting for a subdued Moumi Ngamaleu.
The Cameroonians registered their first attempt on target within the opening seconds of the half when captain Benjamin Moukandjo’s hopeful long range curler was easily picked by Ezenwa. That was to be followed by another effort from distance by Franck Zambo Aguissa which drew a smarter save out of Ezenwa.
For all of the Lions’ initial roar at the start of the half, Nigeria added a third on 55 minutes to go out of sight. Chelsea star Moses won the ball close to his own penalty area, left it for his captain Mikel who took two steps before returning the ball for Moses on his tracks. Moses freed Simon who instead of shooting at goal cut back and set up Victor who sliced a one-time effort beyond the hapless Ondoa.
Both teams received injury blows close to the hour mark. First, Choupo-Moting who had come on at the break did his hamstring and was replaced. Nigeria’s first goalscorer Odion Ighalo was also stretchered off on the hour mark with Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho coming in his stead.
Team captain John Mikel Obi who just returned after a 4-month injury layoff was given a deserved rest ahead of Monday’s return leg in Yaounde on 67 minutes when a player nicknamed after him, Mikel Ndubuisi Agu came on for the Tianjin TEDA star.
That mattered little for the Eagles who put icing on the cake fourteen minutes of time through substitute Kelechi Iheanacho. Once again, Victor Moses was pivotal for the goal. He freed his new on-pitch captain Ogenyi Onazi down the right whose centre evaded goalkeeper Ondoa, allowing Iheanacho to cushion his header into an unguarded post.
Just like his captain, Victor Moses received a standing ovation but with a louder applause when he came off for Ahmed Musa with seven minutes left.
Friday’s victory gave Nigeria maximum 9 points from their opening three games in Group B of World Cup qualification, seven ahead of their nearest challengers Cameroon with Zambia and Algeria to start their double header on Saturday.
Nigeria and Cameroon will once again clash on Monday in the second installment of their qualifiers in Yaounde.