TANZANIA’S Taifa Stars produced a stunning second half performance but failed to do enough to stun three-time African champions, Nigeria on match day two of 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying.
Yesterday’s game at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam which finished 0-0 was Sunday Oliseh’s first after he replaced former coach, Stephen Keshi and he opted to hand 29-year-old goalkeeper, Carl Ikeme his competitive debut in place of Vincent Enyeama who asked to be excused from the tie following the death of his mother.
It turned out to be a master stroke as the Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper made no less than six stunning saves to prevent the Eagles from suffering a humiliating defeat.
FSV Mainz defender, Leon Balogun failed to recover from an ankle injury and was subsequently replaced by Solomon Kwambe.
William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo and Kingsley Madu were the other defenders handed starts against the Taifa Stars.
Obiora Nwankwo started ahead of the back four while Ahmed Musa, Moses Simon and Emmanuel Emenike started in more advanced positions ahead of midfielders, Izunna Uzochukwu and Lukman Haruna.
Nigeria threatened early on through Simon on the left but he was fouled as he raced past a defender and honed in on goal. He took the subsequent free kick himself but Emenike headed wildly from four yards.
The hosts then took control and Carl Ikeme had to be at his brilliant best in the 13th and 22nd minutes to keep the score line even.
His first save off an Mbwana Samata effort was particularly impressive as the Taifa Stars continued to show they were anything but intimidated by the storied credentials of their opponents.
The Super Eagles looked sluggish and lacking in co-ordination and Oliseh responded by substituting Haruna after just 35 minutes with striker, Sylvester Igboun taking the Anzhi man’s place and earning his debut as a result.
The hosts however continued to create the more dangerous openings with TP Mazembe man, Thomas Ulimwengu particularly outstanding.
Ahmed Musa’s free kick from range in the 24th minute represented Nigeria’s only effort on target in the half and the visitors knew they were lucky to still be on level terms at the break.
The Super Eagles started on the front foot in the second half and Emenike threatened from range in the 48th minute.
Musa’s pace continued to cause the hosts problems down the right hand channel and he burst through on 57 minutes only to be let down by an atrocious final touch.
Tanzania should have scored on the hour but Ikeme produced a save that defied logic to deny Ulimwengu from point blank range.
Oliseh responded by throwing on Werder Bremen attacker, Anthony Ujah for the tiring Emenike as Nigeria looked to rev the engine. It was the Taifa Stars that however came close to scoring the game’s first goal through Mrisho Ngassa, five minutes later but he managed to head wide when left unmarked from five yards.
Ulimwengu almost scored two minutes after Ngassa’s shocking miss but his low angled drive was impressively kept out by the exemplary Ikeme.
The Tanzanians dominated the rest of the half but were left to contemplate what might have been largely due to the brilliance of Ikeme. The point means Nigeria are still undefeated after the first two rounds of matches and now leapfrog Egypt as the new leaders of Group G. The Super Eagles have now amassed four points following their 2-0 win over Chad on match day one.
Egypt will overtake however overtake Nigeria at the summit of the standings if they defeat Chad on Sunday at Stade Omnisports Idriss Mahamat Ouya, N’Djamena.
Nigeria: Carl Ikeme; Solomon Kwambe, Kingsley Madu, William-Troost Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo, Nwankwo Obiora, Haruna Lukman (Sylvester Igboun), Moses Simon (Emem Eduok 70′), Ahmed Musa, Izunna Uzochukwu, Emmanuel Emenike (Anthony Ujah 61′)