After flattering to deceive in a 2-2 draw against ten-man Mexico last week, Nigeria found themselves needing to improve dramatically for their World Cup qualifying match against Kenya. Happily for the Super Eagles, they could welcome John Obi Mikel back into the fold, and that combined with the lower quality of opposition meant that they were able to control the tempo of the game and eventually earn a vital 1-0 win.
Kenneth Omeruo and Mikel both went the distance at the Karasini Stadium on a pretty rough pitch, and the presence of the latter clearly helped the former. Against Mexico, Omeruo was left hung out to dry thanks to Godfrey Oboabona playing as though he was on an acid trip; this time around Mikel provided a fixed point for his centre halves to play off and also did superbly in screening the defence.
Omeruo wasn't overly taxed -- he was playing against Kenya, after all -- but that was partly due to his discipline here. He'd done his best against El Tri and Chicharito, but now that Oboabona was behaving himself everything was much easier. Meanwhile, Mikel was doing more or less everything you'd expect a Chelsea calibre midfielder to be doing in a match like this. He controlled the ball, kept it well, and repeatedly looked to launch attacks with raking long passes. He also tried to score and made a face when he didn't. It was hilarious.
The Chelsea boys had nothing to do with the Super Eagles' goal, however, despite it coming from a long diagonal out of the back. Efe Ambrose won the ball outside his penalty area and launched it to WAGNH favourite Ahmed Musa, who beat Duncan Ochieng with a deft chip to make it 1-0 late on to give Nigeria the three points they deserved. With leaders Malawai in action at home against Namibia later today, they needed the win to stay in touch in Group F -- now they might end today on top.