Nigeria have qualified for next year’s African Nations Cup (AFCON) competition after they trounced Liberia 6-1 in Calabar on Saturday to go through 8-3 on aggregate.
The home team gave their Europe-based stars the chance to deliver qualification to the 2013 Nations Cup in South Africa and they did it in fine style against a fired-up Liberia, who had forced a 2-2 draw in the first clash in Monrovia last month.
There was a debut for Lazio youngster Ogenyi Onazi, while only defenders Godfrey Oboabona, in for the injured skipper Joseph Yobo, and Azubuike Egwuekwe started among the players from the domestic league.
The Super Eagles got off to a dream start inside the packed 10,000-capacity UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar less than a minute after the kick-off, when big Glasgow Celtic central defender Efe Ambrose rose above the Liberia defence to head home a free kick by Victor Moses.
At this point, Liberia enjoyed more of the ball, but their hosts were more purposeful and in search of goals to settle this tie in good time.
CSKA Moscow winger Ahmed Musa, who played on an unfamiliar left side of attack, doubled the home team’s advantage on 38 minutes when he got first to a pass threaded into the box by Russia-based Emmanuel Emenike to make hay.
This would be a good gift for Musa, who celebrates his 20th birthday on Sunday.
It was then left for Chelsea stars Mikel and Victor Moses to steal the show.
The lively Moses made it 3-0 just three minutes after resumption when he was set up by Real Betis forward Nosa Igiebor to net his first goal for Nigeria.
Two minutes later, Nigeria went 4-0 up after Mikel slotted home a penalty kick after Liberia goalkeeper Nathaniel Sherman brought down a goal-bound Igiebor in his goal area.
It was Mikel’s third international goal and a fitting return for the Chelsea midfielder, who was playing only his first game for the country since coach Stephen Keshi took over the team in November.
In the 70th minute, Skipper Duncan Gebro saw red for a second booking for diving inside the Nigeria goal area.
And two minutes later, Liberia’s woes were compounded when substitute Ike Uche grabbed Nigeria’s fifth goal on 72 minutes when he crashed his shot from the top of the box against the post and into the net.
The Eagles continued to threaten for more goals despite their comfortable lead with the likes of Ahmed Musa and Victor Moses wasting clear-cut chances.
The Lone Star from Liberia would pull a goal back on 80 minutes through substitute striker Patrick Wleh.
The Ronaldinho-lookalike was quicker to react to a through ball by Sekou Oliseh and poke the ball beyond Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama for his team’s only goal.
Moses then sealed a convincing 6-1 home win for the Super Eagles when he headed home a measured cross from the left by his Chelsea teammate Mikel.
[Content culled from MTN Football .Com]