By Onochie Anibeze
Voices at the background were loud at the time Samson Siasia spoke with us. It was few minutes after the match and the players were, apparently, celebrating their victory which their coach described as “hard”.

First half had ended goalless and the Eagles had become nervous. The stadium was half-filled, according to reports.

Nigeria needed the three points to keep pace with Guinea who had been leading the group from the time Austin Eguavoen was still handling the team. Samson Siasia team blew the chance to overtake them when they held Ethiopia to a 2-2 draw in June.

Nigeria needed to win yesterday’s match so much that Siasia said that they would not need to return home if they did not get the three points. And when the first half ended goalless everybody on the Nigerian side had become edgy.

According to Siasia, the pitch was “horrible and we couldn’t play good football.”

But Joseph Yobo, the captain of the side, gave Nigeria hope when he leaped to head in Nigeria’s first goal off a corner keep. The Eagles were still struggling when, on 75 minutes, Victor Nsofor sealed victory for Nigeria with a goal Siasia described as “wicked.”

Said he: “It feels good now but out there it wasn’t so. It was a difficult match. Our victory was a hard one, very hard one indeed.

Let the Games begin••• Nigerian athletes file out during the opening of the 10th All-Africa Games in Maputo weekend (September 3, 2011) after President of Mozambique Armando Guebuza opened the games at Zimpeto National Stadium. Mozambique are expecting 5,000 men and women from 48 countries to compete in 24 sports. AFP PHOTO

You know that Madagascans had nothing at stake, so they were relaxed and passing the ball around. Sometimes, it is difficult to play a team that has nothing at stake.

They make less mistakes because there’s no anxiety in them. You have to impose your game to win and that’s precisely what our players did. Yobo scored from a corner kick and Nsofor scored a wicked goal.

He fired a rocket from outside the 18 Yard Box and the goalkeeper didn’t see the ball. It was like the shot tore the net. The opponents had one or two chances but they made the game difficult with their play. They were not that direct but they tried to contain us.

However, our players didn’t give up. They fought hard and earned a hard victory.”

The 2-0 victory over Madagascar kept Nigeria’s sight on the 2012 Nations Cup automatic qualification ticket. Their next match is an home tie against Guinea in October

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