Algeria Hold Nigeria in Final World Cup Qualifier

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Algeria forced Nigeria to a 1-1 draw in their final match of the 2018 World Cup Qualifier at the Stade Mohamed-Hamlaoui Friday evening.

The hosts needed a late penalty from skipper Yacine Brahimi to cancel out John Ogu’s superb 63rd minute opener, despite Eagles coach Gernot Rohr making six changes to the side that beat Zambia 1-0 in Uyo last month to clinch the ticket.

Ola Aina started in left-back for the injured Elderson Echiejile, while Hapoel Beer Sheva’s Anthony Nwakaeme was flanked by Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho in attack.

The Fennec Foxes began rapidly, threatening the Eagles goal after just 23 seconds when Leicester City striker Islam Slimani directed a header off target from six yards out.

Nigeria responded immediately with an attack down the right, but Kelechi Iheanacho’s teasing cross failed to get the connection it needed.

It was a largely scrappy opening half in Constantine, as both sides struggled to find rhythm on the bumpy pitch.

Rabah Madjer’s men threatened after the restart, as Riyad Mahrez released Slimani with a quickly taken free-kick that needed Eagles skipper Leon Balogun to be alert.

At the other end, Iwobi showed great control and skill to collect a rebound and unleash a half-volley that was well saved by Faouzi Chaouchi in Algeria goal.

But the goalkeeper could do little to stop Ogu’s belter from 25 yards as the Eagles shot into the lead.

Picking up the ball after a loose clearance from the Algeria defence, Ogu, making a return to the side – curled a sumptuous effort into the top right corner to stun the home fans.

The Eagles looked to be coasting toward their fifth win of a memorable campaign when the referee awarded Algeria a soft penalty four minutes from time following a tackle from Shehu Abdullahi on Brahimi.

The Porto man made no mistakes from the spot, sending Ikechukwu Ezenwa the wrong way to earn his country a draw.

Emmanuel Offor

An avid sports fan who is also hooked on movies, music and books. Basically, I PLAYpen & PUNCHlines

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