The Super Eagles authored a morale –boosting start to their 2018 FIFA World Cup preparations when pipping hosts Poland 1-0 in Wroclaw on Friday.
Victor Moses, top scorer for Nigeria in the qualifying campaign with three goals, netted the only goal of a gritty game at the Stadion Miejski after picking himself up from an infringement in the box to score from the penalty spot, with the opposition goal –minder transfixed on the spot.
Nigeria started the brighter side, with chances for Odion Ighalo and Kelechi Iheanacho as Alex Iwobi showed good footworks on the left. However, Poland captain Robert Lewandowski had the first sight of goal but could only rock Francis Uzoho’s upright after eight minutes.
A couple of free –kicks by Moses caused stir in the home team’s box, yet it was the hosts who came closest from the dead –ball situation as Brian Idowu and Uzoho missed a flighted ball from the right with 10 minutes to interval.
Kamil Glik, Karol Linetty, Dawid Kownacki and Rafal Kurzawa all worked hard for the Poles.
Five minutes later, Ighalo showed remarkable stuff to get his head to the ball in the box from Moses’ free –kick from the right, coming very close as Lukasz Fabianski only scrambled with the ball narrowly off target.
The capacity crowd at the Stadion Miejski thought their Bialo-Czerwoni, as Poland’s National Team is called, had taken the lead when Uzoho was beaten from a free –kick with two minutes to recess, but Leon Balogun kept his nerve to abort the ball’s determined flight into the net. Uzoho then palmed away a free –kick by Lewandowski just before referee Michael Oliver’s whistle.
On resumption, the hosts became even more aggressive and hard on the tackle than they were in the first period, but Uzoho, 19 –year old former junior international winning only his second cap at senior level, refused to be beaten by even Bayern Munich ace Lewandowski, and Moses then converted after being clipped on his way to goal.
It was not a game for the faint –hearted, but stand –in captain William Ekong did a marvellous job on the night, thwarting, blocking and initiating onslaughts, while returnee Joel Obi and Ndidi were magnificent in midfield and refused to be brow –beaten.
Ighalo worked hard and kept the opposition defenders busy, while Moses once more advertised his ‘let’s go there’ spirit and substitutes Ahmed Musa, John Ogu, Kenneth Omeruo, Ogenyi Onazi and Tyronne Ebuehi did not look out of place.
Nigeria coped well without the absent captain Mikel John Obi and resilient midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo, who is nursing an injury.
Next up for the Super Eagles is a clash with Serbia at The Hive, Canons Park in London on Tuesday evening. The Nigeria contingent will fly out to London on Saturday.