Swaziland forced Nigeria to a 0-0 draw in the second round, first leg 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifier played at the Somhlolo National Stadium, Lobamba on Friday night.
The hosts came into the game having caged Djibouti 8-1 on aggregate in the first round and as expected, the southern Africans gave the Super Eagles a run for their money in the keenly contested encounter.
An injury to Moses Simon in the opening minutes of the encounter gave an indication of what to expect after the Gent forward had his head bandaged after clashing his head with Felix Badenhorst in an attempt to win an aerial battle.
The King’s Shield had their first real chance to get the curtain raiser but Sabelo Ndzinisa’s long range effort could not threaten goalkeeper Carl Ikeme who made some crucial saves to rescue Sunday Oliseh’s men from defeat.
Nigeria’s first clear chance came in the 27th minute when Ogenyi Onazi’s freekick was expertly saved by goalkeeper Nhlanhla Gwebu who held firm to deny Sylvester Igbonu and Odion Ighalo from wreaking havoc with brilliant saves.
Faced with a knobby artificial turf, the Super Eagles tried to control the game with Ahmed Musa and Simon’s pace upfront, fashioning another chance after just four minutes which Ighalo failed to convert.
Not too long, Mikel Obi and Ogenyi Onazi combined after a fine surging run from Sylvester Igbonu but Musa's shot was blocked by Siyanbonga Mdluli.
The hosts also had a sight on goal in the 31st minute when Badenhorst ‘s loose kick presented Ndlovu with the chance to run at Nigeria’s back four. The ball eventually fell to Godfrey Oboabona who cleared to safety.
As the half progressed, Oliseh’s men were happy to sit back and allow Swaziland dominate possession in midfield, the visitors lacked quality in the final third.
In the second half, the Eagles made an early change with Rabiu Ibrahim replacing Igbonu. Unfornately, Ibrahim was hurled off 20 minutes after his introduction and was replaced by Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho whose efforts could not break down the stanch hosts.
The introduction of Obafemi Martins brought life to the Eagles’ attack as the Sounder’s man gave Mkhweli and Ndzinisa torrid times. His major impact in the game came in the 83rd minute when he breezed into Swaziland’s backline, gave Ighalo a low pass but the Watford forward rather than pull the trigger lost possession to the hosts.
Swaziland , too, were reduced to shots from range, with Pamla firing just wide of the upright. In the capacity filled stadium, coach Harry Bulunga’s shouts from the touchline could clearly be heard, with the head-coach urging his players to 'keep their shape' and 'get wide'.
Nigeria host the King’s shield in the second leg on Tuesday at the Adokiye Amesiamaka Stadium. Port Harcourt with the winner on aggregate moving to the group stage of the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifier.