World Cup Qualifier : Nigeria 3 Sudan 0
World Cup African Zone qualifier played on Saturday at the Port Harcourt stadium. Scorers: Victor Agali 58, 68, Nwankwo Kanu 79 Halftime: 0-0 Attendance: 30,000 NIGERIA's hopes of a third successive appearance at the World Cup were yesterday kept alive as the Super Eagles defeated Sudan 3-0 at Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt.
After a goalless first half, in which the Nigerian team looked incredibly short on ideas, Hansa Rostock striker, Victor Okechukwu Agali, brought the game to life with two goals in the 58th and 64th minutes.
Arsenals Kanu Nwankwo celebrated his return to the Eagles by netting the third goal in the 82nd minute.
The match indeed turned out to be more difficult than expected. The Eagles looked quite dull in the first half and the few chances created were wasted with Jay Jay Okocha emerging the worst culprit.
Okocha set the tone for the many misses in the fourth minute when he shot wide after some neat work from left back Ifeanyi Udeze whose confidence appears to be growing with every match.
Okocha followed with another effort in the 21st minute but could not hit target. His shot flew well over the bar.
Sunday Oliseh and Garba Lawal came up with better goal attempts at the closing stages of the first half but neither could get past goalkeeper Mohammed.
The Sudanese continued to grow in confidence as they repeatedly kept the Eagles attack at bay. Indeed the visitors should have taken the lead early in the second half when their striker was put through with only Ike Shorunmu to beat. But he somehow missed the target.
This appeared to galvanise the Eagles as they stepped up a gear, apparently realising that failure to secure victory might affect their chances of appearing in the Japan/Korea 2002 World Cup.
Okocha and Agali came closer to scoring afterward but they were again both denied by Mohammed.
With the capacity crowd at the Liberation Stadium becoming agitated as the goals refused to come, they began chorusing the popular cry "All we are saying, give us one goal."
Gangling Agali duly obliged in the 58th minute as he rose higher than his markers to nod home a pull- out from Udeze who had made one of his now regular darting runs from the back. The crowd, relieved at the goal, went wild with jubilation.
Agali was to follow this with another headed goal 11 minutes later. This time he converted Finidi Georges brilliant cross from the right to score his third goal in two matches.
The leggy striker should indeed have had a hat-trick as his shot in the 82nd minute beat the keeper, but only to be stopped by the cross bar. Okocha pounced on the rebound but his effort was blocked by the Sudanese defence. Nwankwo Kanu, who came in as second half substitute, however, made no mistake from the second rebound as he volleyed into the net to celebrate his return to the Super Eagles.
Reacting after the match, coach Bonfrere Jo blamed the stadium for Nigerias poor first half performance.
Bonfrere said the Sudanese apparently came to get a draw from the match but that they collapsed after Nigerias first goal.
The Dutchman noted that Agalis first goal geared the players to come all out and ensure victory over the visitors.