Gernot Rohr and Nigeria took all three points against Algeria in a 3-1 win today in Uyo to extend its lead in its World Cup qualifying group. It was the team's third consecutive win in as many games under Rohr. The team clearly is playing at the height of its ability in several areas. Confidence is high and it was important against Algeria as the Algerians were desperate to take something home from the game.
However, one must acknowledge that the Nigerian team took its time to settle down and defensively Balogun provided leadership early to energize a group that seemed lethargic and in the middle it was difficult to believe that this was just Etebo's fifth game for Nigeria. He was everywhere especially in the opening half when Nigeria dominated. Below is how the team's various units did.
GOALKEEPER: Akpeyi's state of mind appeared shaky and Nigeria was lucky that Algeria hardly tested him even when opportunities existed. This performance is no better than a C.
DEFENSE: The defense was far from solid as a unit even though there were individuals that excelled. The wide players for Nigeria were not consistent helping in the ball recovery phase, leaving gaps for Algeria to exploit on the weak side of play. C+
MIDFIELD: Nigeria was in control of this area most of the game with Etebo as the General and his shadow was enormous both defensively and in ball distribution. Mikel, playing behind Nigeria's most advanced player, provided confidence as usual. However, the midfield organization collapsed in the second half and was largely responsible for not closing down the Algerians at the top of the box. A-
FORWARD: Going forward, Nigeria always threatened with Victor Moses but there were numerous broken plays through Iheanacho. It is clear that Nigeria's passes through the defense provides opportunities and it showed today but the hold up play by Iheanacho was not the best. B+
COACHING: Rohr's use of Omeruo was a major question going in and Omeruo's play was average. However, his presence helped provide defensive cover on the right. The introduction of Etebo in midfield as a starter was indeed a key part of the win. Then introducing Ahmed Musa in the second half to run in the space behind Algeria's attack was telling. However, the team defense still has a long way towards improvement. It defended too deep inside the box in the second half and failed to closedown Algerians at the top of the box. Grade B+.
RATING THE PLAYERS
Daniel Akpeyi (1) -- 5.9 -- This was a shaky performance for Akpeyi and twice he rushed out too early when he had defensive cover. His play just failed to inspire confidence.
Kenneth Omeruo (4) - 6.0 - He was solid defensively but gave very little going forward. Clearly, he is far from the answer at the problematic right back position.
Elderson Echiejile (3) - 6.3 - He arrived camp late but had one of his best games for Nigeria. He exploited space going forward down the left and also provided strong and confident defensive play.
William Ekong (5) - 6.0 - This was an average game for William and he appeared slow to dangerous situations at times.
Leon Balogun (6) - 6.8 - Clearly, Nigeria's best defensive player on the day. Commanded the defense from the opening minute and oozed confidence. This was probably his best performance for Nigeria dominating both in the air and on the ground.
Ogenyi Onazi (17) - 6.0 -- One of his quietest games in Nigeria's colors. However, he played within his abilities making few passing errors and stayed home defensively for most of the game.
Etebo Oghenekaro (20) - 7.2 - Etebo bossed the midfield even with Mikel on the field. This is unusual for Nigeria where Mikel had always ruled. Etebo was always available as an outlet, made right decisions with the ball, and was there to recover the ball when Algeria had possession. He was simply masterful and clearly is now a fixture in the midfield going forward.
Mikel Obi (10) - 6.5 - Mikel scored a bizarre goal when he and the Algerian defense thought he was offside and hesitated. Seeing the flag down, Mikel scored and celebrated. Television replays showed he was onside and he took the goal in stride. His overall play was confident, as usual, but tracking back was not the best.
Victor Moses (11) - 7.0 -- He scored a brace and that alone gives him a high mark. In truth, he was always a threat with the ball at his feet. He could have completed a hat trick only if he converted a very early opportunity.
Kelechi Iheanacho (14) - 5.8 - Kelechi had difficulty all day playing with his back to goal. He failed to win any aerial contest and turned the ball over very easily with poor first touch. However, he did come close to scoring with a chance late from Ahmed Musa's cross but he failed to clean up the chance.
Alex Iwobi (18) - 6.2 - He started slowly but grew into the game after he switched to the right. Alex has to protect the ball better but he did show off his passing skills.
Ahmed Musa (7) - 6.2 - His blistering pace created problems in the few minutes that he was on as he exploited large swaths of space behind Algeria's attack. He made an assist on Moses' second goal and could have had a second if Iheanacho had been clinical in front of goal.
Wilfred Ndidi (21) - 6.0 -- Average play but energetic as always.
Shah Abdullahi (12) - 6.0 - Shehu was better than Omeruo when he came on. He did well defensively and also did well going forward.