Thursday Nov 16, 2023. 20:37
Nigeria didn’t make the best of starts to their 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign after Lesotho held them to a 0-0 draw at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium on Thursday evening.
The Super Eagles bossed proceedings in Uyo, but found themselves trailing to Motlomelo Mkhwanazi’s 56th-minute opener before Semi Ajayi equalised 11 minutes later to rescue a point for Jose Peseiro’s side.
South Africa now have a chance to set the pace in the group when they face Benin in Durban on Saturday, with Rwanda and Zimbabwe having played out to a 0-0 draw in Butare on Wednesday.
The West African giants were viewed as heavy favourites against the Crocodiles and went on the attack from the get-go in the wet conditions, although they failed to trouble Sekhoane Moerane until the 34th minute when Kelechi Iheanacho drew a save out of the goalkeeper from a direct free-kick.
Taiwo Awoniyi wasted a golden opportunity to break the deadlock soon afterwards as he sliced his shot wide of goal from close range with Moerane beaten, while Ademola Lookman managed to test the keeper on the stroke of half-time.
Lesotho had offered very little in attack during the opening 45 minutes, but they hit the front 11 minutes into the second half when Mkhwanazi tucked his shot past Francis Uzoho to stun the home crowd.
However, the stadium erupted on 67 minutes as Ajayi rose highest to power his header beyond Moerane from a corner to restore parity.
The Super Eagles piled on the pressure in the closing stages in their quest to find a winner, but Lesotho held on to claim a precious point.
Nigeria (0) 1 (Ajayi 67′)
Lesotho (0) 1 (Mkhwanazi 56′)
Nigeria: F. Uzoho, B. Osayi-Samuel (O. Aina 84′), S. Ajayi, C. Bassey, J. Collins (B. Onyemaechi 73′), K. Iheanacho, F. Onyeka (J. Aribo 73′), A. Iwobi, A. Lookman (M. Simon 59′), V. Boniface, T. Awoniyi (T. Moffi 59′).
Lesotho: S. Moerane, M. Mohai, M. Mkhwanazi, R. Rasethuntsa, T. Mats’oele, T. Sefali (N. Mokhachane 70′), T. Lesaoana (T. Toloane 84′), L. Lebokollane (B. Sello 84′), J. Thabantso, T. Brown (M. Sera 46′), T. Bereng.