Nigeria’s chances of qualifying for next year’s AFCON in Morocco suffered a major setback Saturday when they fell 1-0 in Sudan.
This was a must-win for the African champions, but they did not create any clear-cut openings, while their hosts delivered the killer punch after 41 minutes through Bakri Abdulqadir to record a very famous victory. The Al Hilal striker’s powerful header from inside the box completely beat goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama for the match winner.
This was only Sudan’s second victory over the more illustrious Nigeria in a dozen meetings. South Africa are now top of Group A after a sparkling 2-0 win in Congo earlier saturday, while Sudan leapfrogged Nigeria into third place with their first win of the qualifying series. Nigeria will now hope to turn the table against Sudan when they host them on Wednesday in Abuja.
Mathematically, The Eagles could still advance to the 2014 Nations Cup if they win their remaining three matches – at home to Sudan and South Africa and away to Congo.
The signals were worrying from the onset as Sudan quickly settled into the rhythm on the artificial pitch at the sell-out Khartoum Stadium, while Nigeria tried to get going with the long ball.
Ironically, the first main chance fell in the 11th minute to Nosa Igiebor, who fired from outside the box but his shot crashed against the base of the post to the relief of the home team.
Sudan, on the other hand, preferred the short, simple passes as they very much looked like they have mastered the pitch. Emmanuel Emenike was denied a goal by the Sudan goalkeeper and skipper Moez Mahjoub immediately after the restart of the second half. He will also see his tame effort cuddled by the Al Hilal goalkeeper in the 58th minute.
Kenneth Omeruo was lucky not to be sent off by the Zambian referee after 65 minutes when he clearly elbowed goal scorer Abdulqadri on his way to goal. In the 87th minute, Mikel thought he had drawn Nigeria level but he had scored from an offside position.