Sierra Leone pulled off a massive comeback, coming from four goals down to draw 4-4 with Nigeria in an exciting 2021 Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City, Nigeria on Saturday.
The Leone Stars looked dead and buried after going 4-0 down after only 29 minutes, but they showed superb fighting spirit, going 4-1 down at halftime and scoring three goals in the final 20 minutes of the match to grab a memorable point.
Nigeria was punished for complacency and going to sleep with a healthy cushion, while Sierra Leone fought back to grab a third successive draw in the qualifiers.
A double from Alex Iwobi and one each from Samuel Chukwueze and Victor Osimhen had given Nigeria a comfortable cushion, with Kwame Quee grabbing one for Sierra Leone before the break.
It was a substitute’s show in the second half as Alhaji Kamara grabbed a brace off the bench with Mustapha Bundu adding another for John Keister’s charges.
Within the opening half an hour, the Super Eagles had already flown away, scoring four unanswered goals. Iwobi scored his first after just four minutes with a low shot from outside the area after Osimhen was dispossessed as he tried to pull the trigger.
Sierra Leone had a chance to draw level in the 20th minute when Kei Kamara was gifted the ball inside the box after Leon Balogun mistimed a clearance, but the forward blasted his effort over with only the keeper to beat.
They were made to pay immediately on the turn with Osimhen scoring the second for Nigeria with a side-foot shot from inside the box, finishing off Zaidu Sanusi’s cross from the left.
The Nigerians were flying five minutes later when they had the third, a brilliant second for Iwobi.
A good passing move from the Nigerians opened up the Sierra Leone defense and Osimhen’s poor control found Iwobi, the Everton FC forward curling an effort into the goal, keeper Mohamed Kamara left dazed.
They were 4-0 up after 29 minutes, a beautiful piece of individual play from Chukwueze stretching the lead further. A quick transition from defense to offense saw Osimhen flick the ball into Chukwueze’s running path, the forward leaving his markers on the ground before slamming the ball into the roof of the net.
With a four-goal cushion and room for comfort, Nigeria passed the ball around with ease with zero pressure.
Sierra Leone, now trying to salvage some pride pushed on in the final quarter of an hour of the half and they were rewarded five minutes to the break when Quee scored with a low shot in between keeper Okoye Maduka’s legs after latching on to a long ball.
— 🇳🇬 Super Eagles (@NGSuperEagles) November 13, 2020
With a 4-1 lead at the break, Nigeria was cruising.
A minute into the second half they almost stretched five further but Osimhen saw his header from an Ahmed Musa freekick come off the bar.
But Sierra Leone kept their fight, with the hope that they could still get back to the game. They started their comeback in the 71st minute, substitute Alhaji Kamara scoring their second. The burly forward sneaked in behind the defense to nod down a header from a cross on the left.
They kept the fight and in the 79th minute drew another goal back, again from a substitute. Nigeria was left in disarray at the back and from another cross from the left, Mustapha Bundu finished off.
Hope was finally alive and belief was high. Five minutes to the break, Sierra Leone had their comeback complete when the two substitutes combined again, this time Bundu winning the ball on the right and taking a cross, Kamara heading it a yard off the goal.
The Super Eagles were left dazed and shocked, and the pain of losing a four-goal lead was worsened with top striker Osimhen being stretchered out after picking a wrist injury.
Nigeria gave the fight to try and get the winner and they came close when Kelechi Iheanacho’s freekick was punched away by the keeper in the 89th minute.
Niger 1-0 Ethiopia
Meanwhile, in Niamey, Niger beat Ethiopia by a solitary goal at the Stade Général Seyni Kountché to pick their first victory of the qualifiers. Youssouf Oumarou scored the only goal for the hosts off the penalty spot in the 74th minute.
This article was previously published on CAFonline