By George Akpayen
Already-qualified Nigeria made sure they ended their race in the 2018 World Cup qualifying series unbeaten after a 1-1 draw away in Algeria on Friday.
Nigeria head coach Gernot Rohr decided to leave out captain Mikel John Obi and replaced him with Israel-based John Ogu.
Olaoluwa Aina and Tony Nwakaeme started from the outset with the former playing from left-back in the absence of Elderson Echiejile while Israel-based Nwakaeme got his debut.
Algeria legend Rabah Madjer named a strong side in Riyad Mahrez, Yacine Brahimi, Islam Slimani and Ismael Bennacer.
Despite Nigeria’s Super Eagles already through to the World Cup, they put in their feet for every contest though the first 45 minutes was lacklustre.
The first period of the game indeed typified why it was referred to a dead-rubber contest in previews by pundits.
However 18 minutes into the restart, the game sprang to life when Hapoel Be’er Sheva midfielder Ogu picked his spot with a well-taken left-footed strike from outside of the Algerian box.
With Nigeria holding a one-goal lead, it looked like a fifth defeat stared the Fennecs of Algeria in the face before their faithful.
Madjer’s men simply did not lower their heads and pushed to level the score.
Leicester City forward Slimani showed a lack of cutting edge in front of goal on 67 minutes when he missed a sitter after Nigeria goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa failed to deal with Aissa Mandi’s low cross.
At some point, tempers began to fly in the game and Algeria captain Brahimi was fortunate to remain on the pitch after he headbutted Shehu Abdullahi but instead got a booking from Gabonese referee Eric Otogo-Castane.
Twice Nigeria came close to adding a second on 83 and 84 minutes. First Kelechi Iheanacho’s free kick was palmed away to safety by Algeria stopper Fawzi Chaouchi and then substitute Henry Onyekuru went past a marker but had his attempt aimed for the bottom corner deflected off target.
Four minutes to the end, Otogo-Castane awarded Algeria a dramatic spot kick. Brahimi stepped up and converted to even the scoreline at 1-1 to deny Nigeria a fifth win in the World Cup qualification.
Nigeria have now gone 36 matches unbeaten in FIFA World Cup qualification.
© The Predictor