Iwobi's goal sends Super Eagles to 2018 World Cup with 1-0 victory

Alex Iwobi's winning goal booked the Super Eagles' place in Russia with victory over Zambia.

Arsenal youngster Alex Iwobi came on from the bench to score the all-important goal in the 73rd minute after an evenly-matched contest between both teams.

Nigerian coach, Gernot Rohr named the same starting line-up that won four points against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, with Odion Ighalo and Victor Moses leading the line for the third consecutive game.

Despite scoring in the 2-1 victory against the Zambians in Ndola in the first leg last year, Premier League youngsters Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho had to settle for the substitutes' bench.

Zambian coach Wedson Nyirenda named Fashion Sakala and Alex Ngonga to lead the attacking line with hopes of keeping his team's qualification hopes alive.

Nigeria started the game on the front foot with Zambian keeper, Kennedy Mweene, having to intercept a cross into the box in the opening seconds of the game.

However, it was Zambia who first got a decent goal-scoring chance with Ngonga winning a corner kick off Nigerian centre back Leon Balogun, but it was wasted.

The Super Eagles soon won their own corner after Moses Simon's darting run down the left was put out by the Zambian defence but the delivery into the box was comfortably saved by Mweene.

Both teams played cautiously in the opening minutes of the game, unwilling to get hit on the counter attack by their opponents, a period that witnessed very little attacking penetration.

Zambia were presented with a golden chance to go ahead in the 13th minute after a misplaced pass by William Troost-Ekong resulted in an attacking move that ended in Sakala shooting wide from a tight angle on the edge of the box.

The Eagles were soon presented a chance of their own only three minutes later after a Simon break down the right wing resulted in a cross that Ighalo missed by a few inches.

Zambia later put the ball in the back of the net after surviving a Nigerian attack but the goal was disallowed as Augustin Mulenga was ruled to have been in an offside position.

Rohr had to make an injury-enforced substitution after Ogenyi Onazi came down with a knock and had to be replaced by Mikel Agu.

The Porto midfielder immediately became the catalyst for a Nigerian attack that resulted in Simon shooting into the waiting hands of Mweene.

Zambia almost immediately sent the home crowd into panic with a counter attack that almost resulted into the opening goal.

Ngonga outmuscled Balogun to get one-on-one with the keeper but he lobbed the ball too high over the bar to waste the Chipolopolo's best chance of the game.

Nigerian goalkeeper, Ikechukwu Ezenwa soon after had to come to the rescue of his team after Ngonga, again, was afforded enough time and space in front of the box to crack a dangerous shot that the 'keeper had to parry away for a corner kick.

Captain Mikel John Obialmost fashioned out a goal against the run of play after bringing down a high ball in front of the Zambian goal before shooting wide with his left foot.

A flurry of chances from Nigeria resulted in wasted chances from Ighalo and Simon in quick succession with the Nigerian team pressing on the visitors in the closing stages of the first half.

Both teams withdrew to their dressing rooms at the end of the first half with a 0-0 stalemate that didn't help anyone, especially Zambia.

Much like the opening of the first half, Nigeria came out firing again with a Mikel Obi shot getting deflected for a corner before Balogun headed straight at Mweene.

Nyirenda made an early change as he withdrew Chisamba Lungu for Ernest Mbewe in the 50th minute to improve his side's attacking options.

Enock Mwepu shot well wide of Ezenwa's goal just minutes later as both sides prodded for the important opening goal.

Mweene had to be at full stretch to keep out a looping header from Wilfred Ndidi in the 56th minute after Moses whipped in an inviting cross from a free kick.

With chances for both teams few and far between, Iwobi, who replaced Simon in the 65th minute, was set up on a counter attacking run before passing to Moses who threaded the ball to Ighalo in the box, but he gave the ball away after losing his footing.

Nigeria finally got the all-important goal in the 73rd minute after a Shehu Abdullahi cross down the right wing was directed into the back of the net by the onrushing Iwobi.

With the Zambians rattled by the goal, the Super Eagles continued to pile on the pressure with Iwobi instrumental in keeping their defence on the back foot.

The once again impressive Moses came close to getting a second goal in the 89th minute, but the ball went through his legs as he tried to connect with it.

Ndidi shot wide in added minutes as Nigeria closed out the game to become the first African team to qualify for next year's finals in Russia with 13 points.

The showcase in Russia next year will be Nigeria's sixth time of participating in the World Cup finals.

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