The Super Eagles were helped by a goal from the Granada striker during a game that saw them miss many chances to score
Nigeria defeated Namibia by a lone goal in Calabar on Sunday to open their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign in Group F on a good note.
Granada’s Ikechukwu Uche scored the lone goal inside the packed U.J Esuene Stadium. Nigeria used the opportunity to honour late legend Rashidi Yekini, who died in May, by observing a minute of silence.
The hosts started with a great deal of confidence early on with the trio of forwards Uche, Victor Moses and John Utaka troubling the visitors.
It was Uche’s third minute shot on goal that set the tone for the encounter after he profited from a bad clearance in the Namibian defence. His shot was kept safe by goalkeeper Virgil Vries who was making his fifth appearance for the Brave Warriors.
Uche had another opportunity to score as he saw his scissors kick cleared off the line 15 minutes on. The Nigerians looked as though they were going to have a field day against the Namibians but were unable to convert their chances.
In trying something different, Moses went for a fall in the Namibian box as calls for a penalty were waved away by referee Khalid Abdul Rahman.
The young Wigan forward was later to suffer a kick on the back that was rightly punished by the referee as a foul.
Nigeria’s midfield tried to assert itself as the game wore on when Nwankwo Obiorah shot just wide. It was not one way traffic though as the Brave Warriors won a ball in their half and moved on to penetrate the Super Eagles, winning a corner kick in the process.
Having cleared their lines, Nigeria moved forward and won a free kick through Utaka. The resultant short pass found Uche who waltzed his way through the defence but shot just above the cross bar.
The Nigerians would miss another chance through Uche on the half hour mark as he shot low to the left of Vries. A minute later, Uche again saw his close header kept firmly by Vries as the first period ran out.
The second half started with the same vigour from the Nigerians but Uche could not covert the opportunities that came his way. They did not lack enthusiasm but were unlucky not to finish.
A goalmouth scramble early on showed the frustration of the Eagles who were cheered on by the local crowd.
Stephen Keshi made a change by taking off Utaka for Ahmed Musa, and he immediately proved useful as he had a header scrape off the crossbar.
Nerves began to show as the clock wore down and the spectators called for at least one goal from the team. The young Namibians did not look perturbed as they held on. Lone striker Tangeni Shipahu had an opportunity to run against the Nigerian defence but was cut out before he could shoot on Enyeama’s goal.
Minutes later, Uche then saved the Nigerians’ blushes when he scored from inside the box after he received a cross from Musa on the left to shimmy a defender and shoot low past Vries.
The Nigerians then held on to secure their first three points and lead the group ahead of Kenya and Malawi who played out a goalless draw in Nairobi on Saturday.
Nigeria will next go to Blantyre to face Malawi on June 8 while Namibia will host Kenya in Group F.