Moses Simon’s first half well-taken penalty made the difference between Nigeria and Guinea-Bissau in the second game of their double-header Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers at the Estadio 24 de Setembro on Monday.
The Super Eagles fought hard to claim the 1-0 win over the Wild Dogs away from home to return to winning ways and end their four-match consecutive defeats.
Underfire Portuguese tactician Jose Peseiro made five changes to the team that lost 1-0 to the Wild Dogs at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja last Friday.
In defence, Semi Ajayi started in place of the injured Kevin Akpoguma, while Kenneth Omeruo was preferred ahead of Calvin Bassey.
Frank Onyeka got the nod ahead of Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi in the midfield, while Moses Simon returned to the starting XI, replacing Ademola Lookman on the left flank, with Terem Moffi starting ahead of Kelechi Iheanacho in the attack.
The first chance of the game fell to the Bissau Guineans with striker Mama Balde — who grabbed his side’s winner on Friday — firing wide inside 10 minutes.
It took the Eagles 10 minutes to carve out their first chance, but Nice forward Terem Moffi’s shot was blocked by Sori Mane and deflected for a corner-kick.
Victor Osimhen almost put the three-time Africa champions ahead in the 20th minute after he was released by a fine through ball from Simon but his shot went wide.
Nigeria’s best player in their last two matches, Bright Osayi-Samuel then ran past two Djurtus players before he was brought down by Fali Cande inside the box, with Moroccan referee Samir Guezzaz awarding a penalty.
Nantes winger Simon stepped up to take the penalty and sent goalkeeper Jonas Mendes the wrong way to put the Eagles ahead.
The goal calmed the Eagles’ nerves as they began to gain more control of the ball.
Against the run of play, Omeruo was shown a yellow card by the referee in the 36th minute following a rash tackle on Balde.
The second half was an open game as both sides came out all blazing to score.
Baciro Cande’s side almost scored the equaliser with 61 minutes on the clock but Jorginho couldn’t connect well, with the ball and narrowly going wide. Few seconds later, Osimhen thought he had doubled the visitors’ lead but his low drive hit the inside of the post, much to the relief of the hosts.
Balde drew a save from Francis Uzoho in the 67th minute, before Aribo, who came on for Moffi in the 61st minute, narrowly missing being on the score sheet following a neat pass between the midfielder and Simon, but his shot was blocked to deny the Eagles the two-goal cushion they craved for.
Osimhen then watched agonisingly as his shot rolled through the face of the post, following a nice through pass from Samuel Chukwueze.
Both sides could not break each other’s defences in the second half and Simon 30th minute penalty was enough to send the Eagles back to the top of Group A table with nine points from four games.
Guinea-Bissau are second on seven points, while Sierra Leone with five points are third. Whipping boys.
Peseiro, who has come under scathing criticisms from the country’s football-crazy populace following last Friday’s defeat, has now stirred the three-time African champions to three wins in eight games, since he assumed duty May 2022.
His changes on Monday proved crucial in Bissau, with the centre-back duo of Omeruo and Ajayi was more solid than the Akpoguma-Bassey combo in Abuja, while Onyeka added more and energy to the Eagles midfield, which Ndidi lacked in the first fixture..