African champions, Nigeria, put themselves back in contention for a place in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations by defeating Congo 2-0 at Stade Municipal in Pointe-Noire on Saturday.
Ikechukwu Uche scored from the spot and China-based striker, Aaron Samuel got the second at the death to make sure that the Super Eagles climb into second spot behind Group A leaders, South Africa, in the qualification.
Nigeria head coach, Stephen Keshi, started Uche, who was making his return to international football for the first time in 19 months while Warri Wolves defender and captain, Azubuike Egwuekwe, got the nod to start in place of Kenneth Omeruo in the heart of defence.
Congo’s Red Devils would have gone into the lead in 58 seconds after Efe Ambrose dilly-dallied over the ball and allowed Almeria man, Thievy Bifouma, steal the ball and shoot but Vincent Enyeama stuck out his hands to keep the early effort.
Three minutes into the game, Uche came close after John Obi Mikel provided him a good pass.
Congo gradually assumed control of the match as Nigeria’s play looked bogged with poor passes and failure to cover every grass of the pitch.
Seven minutes to the break, CFR Cluj man, Ferebory Dore, was freed inside the box and had just Enyeama in goal to beat to give Congo the lead, but his shot only waltzed past the face of Nigeria’s goal.
Dore again was at the end of Congo’s play as his effort could only fly past Nigeria’s face of goal with Bifouma lurking at the far end in the 43rd minute.
Congo began the business end of the match as they finished the first half but it was Nigeria who got into the lead 13 minutes into the second half through Uche’s goal from 12 yards.
Mikel slipped a pass through Congo’s defence to free Emmanuel Emenike, who was tripped in the box by Chancel Massa in goal for the Red Devils.
Uche stepped up and scored from the spot in the 59th minute to give Nigeria a 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, Congo won themselves a penalty after Godfrey Oboabona handled the ball in Nigeria’s box.
Bifouma’s penalty was, however, saved by Enyeama, who kept Nigeria in the lead.
Keshi then threw on Samuel for Emenike with 15 minutes left and the former 3SC striker sealed the game for Nigeria with a superb left-footed finish, reports supersport.com.
Nigeria are now on seven points with Congo but sit in second place behind South Africa, who have sealed their passage to the 2015 Afcon in Equatorial Guinea.
The Super Eagles will play hosts to South Africa on Wednesday in Uyo.