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Russia 2018: Eagles end qualifiers unbeaten

Nigeria on Friday ended the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers unbeaten after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Algeria in Constantine on Friday.


A goal from Hapoel Beer Sheva midfielder, John Ogu, and a converted penalty from Yacine Brahimi ensured the two sides shared the points at the Stade Mohamed Hamlaoui.


The Super Eagles, who had qualified for the Mundial before the match, finished top of Group B with 14 points while the Algerians are last with two points – the North Africans failed to win a match in the qualifiers. The Eagles qualified with a 1-0 victory over Zambia in Uyo in October.

The draw extended the Eagles’ unbeaten run in the World Cup qualifiers since 2005 when they last lost a World Cup qualifier courtesy of a 1-0 defeat to Angola in a Germany 2006 World Cup qualifier in Luanda.


The Eagles head to Krasnodar in Russia for their friendly against Argentina on Tuesday.


Zambia host Cameroon in the last match of the group on Saturday.


With injures ruling out six key members of the first team, coach Gernot Rohr made five changes to the starting team, which defeated the Zambia 1-0 in Uyo in October but the Eagles struggled to control the game on a bad pitch in Constantine.


The German started Ola Aina, Shehu Abdullahi, Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong in defence. Wilfred Ndidi and Ogu were in defensive midfield while Kelechi Iheanacho, Oghenekaro Etebo and Alex Iwobi supported debutant Anthony Nwakaeme in the attack. IfeanyiUbah’s Ikechukwu Ezenwa remained in goal.


The Algerians started the brighter of the two sides during the early minutes of the game but Nigeria grew into the game with Iwobi and Iheanacho probing the Algerian defence from the wings.


Algeria threatened through the left back, where Aina struggled to perform. Riyadh Mahrez and Brahimi proved a handful for the Hull City defender, creating crosses for Islam Slimani, who was kept quiet by the duo Balogun and Troost-Ekong.


Nigeria struggled to control the midfield as Nwakaeme failed to receive enough service from the midfielders to threaten the Algerian goalkeeper. Etebo and Ogu were largely absent in the first half as they struggled to impose themselves on the game.


In the second half, the Eagles improved as they operated through the wings after they lost in the midfield.


The Eagles went ahead in the 63rd minute after the ball fell kindly to Ogu from a clearance by Algerian defenders from a corner kick.


But in the 86th minute, Gabonese referee Eric Otogo-Castane pointed to the spot after Abdullahi was adjudged to have fouled Slimani. Brahimi converted the kick to earn a point for the hosts. The Algerians searched for a winner but the Eagles held on for a draw over their bitter rivals.


In other qualifiers, Senegal booked their ticket to Russia 2018 at the expense of South Africa after they beat a hard-fighting Bafana Bafana 2-0 in South Africa.


Goals from Diafra Sakho and a Thamsanqa Mkhize own-goal gave the Senegalese the three points to finish the group with 11 points. They however have a match in Senegal against Bafana Bafana on Tuesday.




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