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Game Details

Libya 2-3 Nigeria: What did we learn?

Nigeria took a massive step towards the Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday when they defeated Libya 3-2 away to move to the top of Group E.

Despite wrapping up a third straight win to dislodge South Africa at the top of the group, things weren't completely straightforward for the Super Eagles, who threw away a two-goal lead.

Gernot Rohr had to rely on the individual brilliance of Odion Ighalo to get over the line, but will have learned a lot about his side.

Set-Piece vulnerability: Leon Balogun's spectacular failure to win the first header against Mohamed Anis Saltou in the build-up to Libya's opening goal summed up a frustrating night defending set-pieces for Nigeria.

Despite having enough bodies in the area to clear the impending danger, Anis Saltou's header found the unmarked Mohamed Zubya to expertly pick his spot for what proved to be the beginning of a near comeback.

The duo of Zubya and Anis Saltou repeatedly won aerial duels against the Nigerian defenders, and the Libyans could consider themselves unlucky not to have punished the West Africans more than once from set-pieces, as Nigeria generally looked disorganised dealing with crosses and aerial threats.

Despite the presence of physically imposing players in Wilfred Ndidi, William Troost-Ekong and Balogun, Nigeria still struggle to address a well-documented set-piece vulnerability, which has plagued the team prior to the World Cup in Russia.

This should come as a major worry for Gernot Rohr, as he appears helpless to improve this weakness.

Midfield meltdown: Nigeria rallied back to seal a late winner after throwing away a two-goal lead, bringing back similar memories of a 2006 World Cup qualifier away to Algeria in Oran, which eventually saw the Super Eagles triumph 5-2.

Despite enjoying a strong start with two goals inside the opening 17 minutes, and an energetic performance from the duo of Oghenekaro Etebo and Ndidi in the opening half-hour, the midfield gradually lost grip.

They eventually crumbled, as Libya pegged Nigeria back in their own half and unsurprisingly found their way back into the contest.

The outcome of the game in Sfax was an opposite reflection of the reverse fixture in Uyo on Saturday, where a dominant second-half display might have suggested the young team could hold their own against any opposition.

Rohr must work on the concentration of his emerging midfielders ahead of November's crucial qualifier away to South Africa.

The team's task could be made more difficult due to the absence of Ndidi through suspension against Bafana, although the return from injury of experienced duo John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi should bring some needed calm to the middle of the park.

Uzoho's unanswered questions: For a second straight game, Francis Uzoho raised unanswered questions regarding his composure.

The Elche goalkeeper repeatedly struggled with his footwork in Uyo, as he clearly wasn't comfortable passing and clearing the ball.

It got even worse in Sfax, with Uzoho's handling letting him down, failing to deal decisively with crosses and shots.

He notably failed to grip a routine strike from Sand Masaud just before half-time, and spilt the ball in the build up to Benali's 74th-minute equaliser.

At just 19, Uzoho still has to undergo some major polishing before becoming the finished product, but a perceived complacency should give room to increased competition for his shirt.

Character wins it for Super Eagles: Credit must be given to the the team for digging deep and finding the winner, in circumstances that could have seen more experienced teams losing focus and character to leave empty handed.

However, Rohr must be considered lucky for getting away with obvious managerial gaffes, by delaying substitutions.

The German inexplicably failed to throw on John Ogu earlier, when it was obvious the midfield was being overrun, and the Hapoel Beer Sheva midfielder's battling qualities could have helped bring some stability.

Despite Samuel Kalu's obvious talent, the Bordeaux wonderkid must learn to be a team player, first, before trying too hard to attain superstar status this early into his international career.

Kalu was lost early on in the second half, and it remains a mystery why Rohr decided to leave him on for 80 minutes, denying the equally gifted Henry Onyekuru quality gametime.

Ighalo for president: Class is permanent, form is temporary, but which half of that statement best describes Ighalo's recent scoring showings?

The China-based forward was made the fall guy in the aftermath of the Super Eagles' World Cup elimination, but he has answered his critics with goals.

A return of six strikes in three qualifiers has not only taken Ighalo to the top of the scoring charts, but has equally seen him enter double figures for Nigeria with 10 goals...five of which have come in three days against Libya.

At this moment, Igahlo can do no wrong in the eyes of critical Nigerian fans, and he just might be the most loved figure in a country of 170 million people this week!


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