A lacklustre performance was all the Super Eagles could offer in Belgium on Thursday as a more dominant DR Congo side thrashed the 2013 African champions 2-0 in their friendly game at the Vise Stadium.
The game was one of two friendlies lined up for the Eagles ahead of their November 8 World Cup qualifier. They will face the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in the second friendly on Sunday in Dendermonde.
It was the team’s first loss under coach Sunday Oliseh, following their goalless draw against Tanzania in Dar es Salaam on September 5 and a 2-0 win over Niger in a friendly affair in Port Harcourt three days later.
The Congolese appeared to have got the third goal when goalkeeper Carl Ikeme went down too early in an attempt to stop a goal-bound ball and was beaten by Nkololo, but the referee ruled it offside.
The Nigerian defence was caught napping on a number of times as Yannick Bolassie, Nkololo and Mbokami threatened Ikeme. But the combined efforts of William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun ensured the Nigerians did not sink deeper in the encounter.
A few incursions made by the Eagles were thwarted by Congo goalkeeper, Parfait Mandanda, who seemed to pre-empt every move made by the Nigerians. He was tested on a few occasions but was defiant at the post.
Nigeria coach, Sunday Oliseh, made efforts to salvage the game by substitutions, but the changes made little difference.
Al Ain forward Emmanuel Emenike and Moses Simon came in for Rabiu Ibrahim and Sylvester Igbonu at the beginning of the second half, while newly-installed captain Ahmed Musa went out for young Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi in the 56th minute. Coimbra FC’s Obiorah Nwankwo also came on for Watford striker Odion Ighalo.
But all the changes made amounted to nothing as the Congolese maintained superior ball possession in the game.
A mild drama ensued on the pitch when a substituted Musa offered the captain’s armband to Chelsea midfielder, Mikel Obi, who declined the sudden responsibility. But Ogenyi Onazi was on hand to take the band – and Monaco defender Elderson Echiejile later took it from the Lazio midfielder.
Iwobi tried to make his inclusion in the dying minutes of the game as he forced a good save from Mandanda. It was a close-range effort that could have reduced the tally.
The last time the Super Eagles played DR Congo on March 3, 2010, Nigeria won 5-2. It is also important to note that only Echiejile is left from that 2010 squad.