Late Ighalo winner puts Nigeria in driving seat

Nigeria's Odion Ighalo challenged by Sand Masaud of Libya
Nigeria's Odion Ighalo challenged by Sand Masaud of Libya
Kabiru Abubakar/BackpagePix

Odion Ighalo scored twice - including an 81st-minute winner - as Nigeria overcame Libya's comeback to win 3-2 in North Africa and move into pole position in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifying group.

The Super Eagles took an early two-goal lead in Sfax following goals from Ighalo and Ahmed Musa inside the first 17 minutes.

Libya battled back and levelled after strikes from Mohamed Zubya in the 35th minute and Ahmad Benali's 74th-minute equaliser.

However, they were undone in the 81st minute when Ighalo - who had scored a hat-trick in the first match between the two sides in Uyo on Saturday - kept his cool to bag a winner.

Nigeria's third consecutive Group E win gives them a one-point lead at the top of the table, as they replaced South Africa following Bafana Bafana's disappointing goalless draw in the Seychelles earlier in the day.

Despite their win, Nigeria will be concerned by their inability to kill off the contest earlier, as Libya rallied and exposed their vulnerability towards the latter stages of the first half.

After Ighalo's tap-in to open the scoring, and Musa's fine slotted finish past stand-in goalkeeper Ahmed Azzaqeh, the Eagles' concentration appeared to slide.

They were punished from a set piece when Leon Balogun was beaten by Mohamed Anis Saltou, whose backpost header was flicked in by Zubya.

Sustained pressure from Libya led to Benali drawing the hosts level in the 74th minute, firing home inside the area after Francis Uzoho had spilled a shot.

However, Ighalo was to have the final say, calmly beating two markers before finishing with his left foot for his sixth goal of the qualifiers.

The Super Eagles' impressive turnaround will be tested in a top-of-the-table clash in South Africa on November 16, where a draw would be enough to secure their place in Cameroon.