Nigeria qualified for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations with a 3-2 win over Sierra Leone on Sunday night at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex.
While star striker Victor Osimhen scored a brace in the first half, Sierra Leone came back with goals from Mustapha Bundu and Augustus Kargbo, keeping the score at 2-2 until late in stoppage time.
Nigeria needed a 95th-minute effort from Kelechi Iheanacho to win the game in Paynesville. As a result, the Super Eagles secured their berth in the following competition, while Sierra Leone failed to qualify for the Afcon.
Nigeria eased into the tie with crisp build-up play from deep positions as the referee blew the first-half whistle. With better possession of the ball, the Super Eagles asserted their dominance over the tie early on.
During the first 15 minutes of the game, Nigeria produced a lot of scoring chances, with Victor Osimhen proving to be a difficult customer to deal with.
The visitors’ pressure paid in shortly before the 20th minute mark, with Osimhen getting his name on the scoresheet. When Osimhen was played through on goal, he recognized the oncoming goalie and lobbed the ball into the back of the net to give his country the lead.
As the half-hour mark came, Nigeria continued to put Sierra Leone on the back foot, creating a few of goal scoring chances along the road, this time with Samuel Chukweuze coming close to increasing his side’s lead.
In the 32nd minute, Osimhen scored his second goal of the game, with a right-footed effort from the center of the box past Ibrahim Sesay between the posts. Despite being in a good position, Sierra Leone equalized four minutes before the break, with Mustapha Bundu scoring with a left-footed effort inside the box.
The Super Eagles looked crisp after the restart and controlled more of the ball in the first few minutes of the second half. Sierra Leone, on the other hand, did not sit back and provided Nigeria with a few of tough moments while defending their quarters.
Sierra Leone absorbed Nigeria’s pressure and looked to catch the visitors off guard. After an hour of playing, the Super Eagles made it tough for their opponents to make any kind of forward progress.
Sierra Leone pulled level in the 84th minute, against the run of play, thanks to a stunning individual effort by Augustus Kargbo on the outskirts of the Nigeria box. The attacker maneuvered his way through traffic just outside the penalty area before unleashing a right-footed shot that beat the Super Eagles goalkeeper.
Nonetheless, Nigeria had the final say in the match, with Kelechi Iheanacho scoring the game-winning goal in the 93rd minute. Zaidu Sanusi made a dashing run inside the Sierra Leone half before squaring the ball to Iheanacho, who guided the ball into the back of the net.