Two goals from Odion Ighalo and one from Ahmed Musa helped the Super Eagles overcome Libya 3-2 in their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Group E qualifying fixture in Sfax on Tuesday to assume leadership of the group for the first time.
South Africa had led the group before Match Day 4 of the qualifiers with seven points but they let it slip after they were held 0-0 by whipping boys Seychelles earlier on. And the Eagles returned the favour by beating the North Africans to climb to the top with nine points, while Libya are third on four points.
The Nigerians, who had beaten the Libyans 4-0 in the first fixture on Saturday in Uyo, had an early control of the game and always looked the side to break the deadlock. And they did.
China-based striker Ighalo grabbed the curtain-raiser in the 14th minute after some fine interchange of passes between Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi and captain Musa, who set up Ighalo inside the box to tap into an empty net.
Three minutes later, Ighalo turned provider for Musa and the Al-Nassr man waltzed past a sea of Libyan legs before his final touch turned into goal despite losing balance in the process.
Mohamed Zubya reduced the tally for the hosts 10 minutes before the break heading high into the far corner with Nigeria keeper Francis Uzoho lost in flight.
The Libyans took control on resumption and came close to equalising on several occasions but Uzoho pulled off some fantastic saves to keep Gernot Rohr’s men ahead.
Ahmad Benali restored parity for the hosts in the 74th minute when he reacted first – with defenders Leon Balogun and Ola Aina watching – to slam home after Uzoho had parried an earlier shot.
The Libyans piled on the pressure but the three-time African champions held on. Ighalo then claimed all three points for the visitors with a fine finish, first selling a dummy to his markers, who went crashing, before firing in the decisive goal – his fifth against the Libyans in both fixtures and sixth in three qualifying matches – to move Nigeria to the top of Group E.