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Semi Ajayi’s header earns Eagles draw with Lesotho in World Cup opener

Semi Ajayi’s header earns Eagles draw with Lesotho in World Cup opener

Semi Ajayi’s header saved the day for Nigeria as the Super Eagles started their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Lesotho’s Crocodiles at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo on Thursday.

The hosts had the lion’s share of possession and chances, but were unable to find the back of the net.

Nigeria’s attacking line of stand-in captain Kelechi Iheanacho, Ademola Lookman, Taiwo Awoniyi and Victor Boniface threw stones and sticks at the opposition goal-area but an inspired goalkeeper Sekhoane Moerane, also the team captain, and his rearguard foiled all the attempts and frustrated the gone crowd.

The home team could have fallen behind after 16 minutes when Tsepang Seeali fired point-blank at Francis Uzoho after a poor touch in the box by Alex Iwobi, playing uncharacteristically deep at the back, released the forward who saw his effort parried by Uzoho.

At the other end, defender Jamilu Collins saw his close shot parried; Boniface headed over the sticks and Iheanacho saw a dipping shot from a 20-yard free-kick punched away by the magnificent Moerane.

Awoniyi missed Nigeria’s best chance of the first period when dragging wide a pass by Boniface in the 36th minute, and Lookman watched in shock as his left-footed belter was parried away.

Lesotho shocked the home fans when they took the lead in the second half, as Motlomelo Mkwanazi headed in a corner kick after a mistake by Nigeria’s keeper Francis Uzoho.

The Eagles stepped up a gear and Moerane had saved from Collins and Iheanacho watched his shot come back off the upright.

Nigeria equalized in the 67th minute, when Semi Ajayi headed in a cross from Kelechi Iheanacho, who led the team in the absence of Ahmed Musa.

Seyi Ajayi's goal rescues Super Eagles

The Eagles tried to find a winner, but were unable to break down Lesotho’s defense. The draw left Nigeria with one point in Group C, while Lesotho also earned their first point.

Nigeria will fly to the city of Butare in Rwanda to trade tackles with the Warriors of Zimbabwe at the Huye Stadium on Sunday.      

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