It was a mixed fortune for Nigeria on Saturday as they crashed out of the race to qualify for the 2020 African Nations Championship despite beating Togo 2-0 in Lagos.
Despite giving it a good and praiseworthy fight, the Super Eagles B were undone by heavy deficit from the first leg and failed to qualify for Cameroon 2020 after a 3-4 aggregate loss to Togo’s Sparrow Hawks.
Togo won the first leg 4-1 in Lome last month and were confident of picking their first-ever ticket to the finals of the competition reserved for professionals playing in their home leagues on the continent.
Yet, they had to dig very deep into their defensive arsenal and resort to time-wasting tactics to edge out a determined Nigeria.
It was fierce and furious from the first blast of Nigerien referee Abdoulaye Rhissa Al-Mustapha’s whistle, with the Eagles aware before kick-off that they needed to score a minimum of three goals without a reply to consign the visitors to elimination. Nigeria’s attacking force of Ndifreke Effiong, Sunusi Ibrahim, Sunkanmi Olawoyin and Sikiru Alimi asked question after question of the Togolese defence.
In the 8th minute, Alimi, who scored Nigeria’s only goal in the first leg, scooped the ball from another attack and left his marker for dead before firing past goalkeeper Abdoul-Moubarak Aigba for the first goal of the day.
The goal further spurred Nigeria, and in the 19th minute, Aigba was well–placed to save as Sunusi Ibrahim released a fierce shot.
Another shot by Ibrahim nearly slipped into the net in the 25th minute, but Messan Toudji cleared off the line with Aigba beaten. Four minutes later, another shot by Ibrahim screamed away from goal.
In the 31st minute, Ibrahim side-netted after dragging past his marker, and just before half time, Effiong lifted the ball a little too high from a 20 –yard free-kick.
In the second half, Togo defended even more stoutly, showing little concern for onslaughts on the Nigerian goal. In the 59th minute, Aigba again saved as Alimi nodded towards goal.
Alimi got his and Nigeria’s second of the day in the 71st minute – a scorcher from the edge of the box off a pass from Ndifreke Effiong.
Nigeria continued to throw everything into the game, looking for the third goal that would send them to Cameroon at the expense of Togo. But it never came, despite the boys giving it a good fight.
Instead, Togo’s Sparrow Hawks will make their first-ever appearance at the CHAN finals next year summer.