Nigeria stretched her unbeaten streak in FIFA World Cup qualifying matches to 35 after being forced to a 1-1 draw by Algeria’s Fennecs in Constantine on Friday.
What would have been a tantalizing encounter between Africa’s best two representatives at the 2014 FIFA World Cup became an academic affair as Nigeria had pocketed the ticket from Group B ahead of the final –day matches.
In the event, Coach Gernot Rohr rested some of his lead actors, which allowed the likes of Ola Aina, Oghenekaro Etebo, John Ogu, Anthony Nwakaeme and Kelechi Iheanacho to start the game at the Stade Mohamed Hamlaoui.
Defence stalwart Leon Balogun wore the captain’s band as Mikel John Obi sat out the game, but there were only few moments of interest in the first half as temperature dropped drastically in Algeria’s third city.
Anthony Nwakaeme failed to make hay when a loose ball fell to him just outside the box in the quarter hour, and then miscued his shot following a free –kick by Iheanacho from the right.
Balogun, William Ekong and Abdullahi Shehu are now fixtures in the Nigerian line –up, but Ola Aina, winning only his second cap, was the toast of many as he was full of great anticipation and mobility coupled with great ball sense and interesting long throws.
Alex Iwobi was menacing, just as Etebo was uncompromising in midfield. But it was Israel –based Ogu who stole the show, brilliantly placing the ball past the Algerian goalkeeper from 20 yards in the 62nd minute as a loose ball fell to him from an Iwobi pull –out.
Yacine Brahimi was the Fennecs’ undisputed star of the game, just as he was during the two teams’ first meeting in Uyo a year earlier. His trickery and dribble runs finally earned something in the 87th minute, when Gabonese referee Eric Otogo Castane adjudged he had been bumped in the box by Shehu and gave the home team a penalty. Brahimi converted to level the tie.