The Super Eagles of Nigeria were held to a 1-1 draw by the Scorpions of Lesotho in the 2026 World Cup qualifying opener at the Nest of Champions in Uyo on Thursday night.
The Nigerian team was touted by the bookmakers to make it through from a poll that had Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Benin, and rival, South Africa but it was the tiny South- African nation that upset the apple cart going ahead 10 minutes after the restart
Motlemelo Mkwanzi, unmarked at the near post, rose high to head home with Nigeria goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho, left stranded.
The Eagles will tie things up in the 67th minute when West Bromwich defender, Semi Ajayi, connected to Kelechi Iheaancho’s well-taken corner kick.
What followed afterward was a deluge of half-chances for Nigeria with Lesotho holding on for a historic point.
The Nigerian side, having missed the 2022 edition of the Mundial in Qatar never showed their intention to right the wrongs in front of half-parked fans in Uyo not until they were stunned by Leslie Notsi’s team.
With Victor Osimhen injured, Jose Peseiro opted for Taiwo Awoniyi to partner Victor Boniface upfront. Their partnership meanwhile never got going with Nottingham Forests’ striker having a torrid time.
Awoniyi’s evening was made worse when he missed an open goal in the first half after he had been teed up by Boniface.
Semi Ajayi could have however gotten the opener but saw his header cleared on the line by a Lesotho defender eight minutes before the break.
At the restart, it was Lesotho that went ahead. A string of half-cleared attacks resulted in a corner, Motlemo dummied Jamilu Collins, before directing his well-paced header to the deep corner of Uzoho’s goal.
Peseiro responded by bringing in Moses Simon and Terem Moffi for Awoniyi and Lookman respectively. Those changes brought a bit of respite in the Eagles’ attack and the team could have equalised in the 63 minutes but Boniface’s effort struck the pole.
The equaliser will however come four minutes after. Ajayi rose high to connect to Kelechi Iheanacho’s on a well-corner kick. A goal that proved to be a saving grace for Peseiro team on a night they will hope to quickly forget.
Up next for Nigeria in the qualifying series on Sunday in Harare is Zimbabwe that held Rwanda to a goalless draw on Wednesday.