Nigeria win under Jose Peseiro, at last, but it wasn't pretty

Third time proved to be a charm for Nigeria coach Jose Peseiro, as his side finally eked out a win after opening his tenure with two straight losses, beating Sierra Leone 2-1 in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying.

Victory however, was again characterised by the familiar frailties which trailed his first two outings and followed -- again -- by a characteristic late turnaround displayed in those friendly games on US soil.

Pattern: A slow start, marked by loose passing and an inability to deal with the high press, leading to giving up an early goal and then a comeback, with more game control and strong finish.

Rangers star Joe Aribo admits that it was not the perfect outing, but is positive the team can get better, teling ESPN: "I think it was important that we got off to a win in the first game. We could have played better, we know that ourselves.

"But I think with more games that will come. This is the first game with our coach with all of us together as a group. We are working with new tactics, new philosophy so we are going to get better with games to come and get stronger."

Last time Sierra Leone visited Nigeria, they pulled off the most stunning of comebacks, from 4-0 down to finish the game 4-4, and could even have won it given a few more minutes on the clock.

That result was a constant media theme in the build up to Thursday's game and may have played some part in the early nerves shown by the Super Eagles.

In addition, Sierra Leone coach John Keister appeared to have studied those two games against Mexico and Ecuador earlier this month, and had his wards quickly off the blocks, and piling some high intensity pressure on the hosts.

They created the better opportunities in those opening minutes, and could have gone ahead even earlier when Mohamed Turay's rasping effort forced a fingertip save from Francis Uzoho.

Reward was not far behind, Jonathan Morshay glancing in a diving header from Alhaji Korma's delicious low cross.

Stung by the goal, the Super Eagles came storming back and were level within four minutes of conceding, Moses Simon picking out Alex Iwobi, and the Everton midfielder waltzing through the Leone Stars defence to curl home from close range.

Like their earlier games against Mexico and Ecuador, the Super Eagles then proceeded to grab and keep a stranglehold on the game, barring the last few minutes.

Peseiro acknowledged the difficulty his team faced and the irritation of starting slowly: "I don't want that. I don't like to suffer goals, any time. We must work more. More time, more sessions, more meetings.

"But it is okay. We beat them 2-1 and I am happy we won, and I told them in the dressing room, our team can and must play better more."

And that was the key question going into the game: Whether, with the full complement of his starters, Peseiro could whip them into some sort of potentially conquering side.

Victor Osimhen and Sadiq Umar went straight into the starting lineup ahead of Cyriel Dessers and Terem Moffi. And Samuel Chukwueze was also installed out wide.

But the players ability to find any sort of constructive passing fluency was compromised by the horrific state of the clumpy pitch of the MKO Abiola Stadium, which had only been repaired before the Super Eagles played against Ghana in March.

Circumstances were not helped by playing behind closed doors, punishment for the pitch invasion which followed the Super Eagles' failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. All of these helped Sierra Leone to get an early grip on the game and race to an early lead.

But as in the previous two games, Peseiro was quick to take remedial action, hailing off Umar, replacing him with Peter Etebo and going to a lone striker formation.

The switch paid off, and helped the Super Eagles keep control of the game and they should have scored at least two more but for some poor unlucky finishing.

Outstanding, again, for Nigeria were Iwobi, Calvin Bassey and Moses Simon, who set up both goals. The first, a slick inside pass to Iwobi. The second an intelligent downward header into the path of Osimhen.

Peseiro added: "Today, I think we created enough opportunities to make it 3-1.

"Against Mexico, our team played better and lost. Against Ecuador we created many opportunities and lost. Today, our team was better than Sierra Leone but this squad, these players can play much better."

They will need to.

Guinea Bissau have already seized group leadership with a 5-1 come from behind win over Sao Tome e Principe, dislodging the Super Eagles with some style.

The Nigerians next travel to Agadir in Morocco to face Sao Tome e Principe on June 13, while Sierra Leone will hope to get their campaign back on track at home to the freshly minted group leaders.

For Peseiro, it gives him more time to work with his wards and play on a better pitch. There should be little leeway for anything but a resounding win in what is neutral ground against one of Africa's true minnows.