The Super Eagles booked their spot in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday after a dramatic 3-2 win over Sierra Leone in their Group A clash at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex, Monrovia, Liberia on Sunday night, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.
Rampaging striker Napoli Victor Osimhen scored a first-half brace, but Mustapha Bundu and Augustine Kargbo equalised for the hosts to send the tie into a frenetic finish.
But Kelechi Iheanacho’s stoppage-time winner earned the Eagles all three points and qualification for the continental showpiece with a game to spare.
Nigeria thus moved back to the top of Group A with 12 points from five matches, ahead of Guinea-Bissau, who were top of the log with 10 points — after their 1-0 win over group’s whipping boys Sao Tome and Principe — before Sunday’s clash in Monrovia.
The visitors started the game on the front foot, pinning their hosts back.
Osimhen gave Nigeria a well deserved lead in the 19th minute with a chip over Sierra Leone goalkeeper Ibrahim Sesay, following a long ball from centre-back and captain of the day Kenneth Omeruo.
Villarreal man Samuel Chukwueze missed the chance to double Nigeria’s lead in the 27th minute but he shot straight at Sesay after he was put through on goal by Osimhen.
Osimhen then doubled the Eagles lead for his seventh goal of the qualifiers, after the Leone Stars defence failed to clear the ball inside the area following a Moses Simon cross.
The Eagles remained on the front foot and nearly scored the third in the 39th minute but Simon’s drive was saved by Sesay.
Sierra Leone then pulled a goal back through Mustapha Bundu three minutes before the break.
Substitute Iheanacho was denied by Sesay 12 minutes from time after he was set up by Osimhen, who came off for Taiwo Awoniyi in the 81st minute.
Kargbo then drew the home side level in the 84th minute, as the pocket of fans at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex cheered their team on.
But it was the Eagles that had the last laugh, after Iheanacho grabbed the winner in stoppage time with a simple tap-in off a through ball by Zaidu Sanusi, for his 13th international goal.
Nigeria thus moved back to the top of Group A with 12 points from five matches, ahead of Guinea-Bissau, who were top of the log with 10 points — after last Wednesday’s 1-0 win over group’s whipping boys Sao Tome and Principe.
Guinea-Bissau are also through to next year’s AFCON, while Sierra Leone (five points) and Sao Tome (one point) are eliminated from the qualifying tournament.
The Eagles end their AFCON series with a dead rubber clash against Sao Tome in September.
Courtesy Punch Nigeria