Nigeria have been confirmed as 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying group E winners following a 3-1 win over Seychelles at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba on Friday afternoon.
Odion Ighalo, Henry Onyekuru and Moses Simon were all on target for the Super Eagles in an unconvincing display against their unfancied opponents.
To their credit, the Islanders showed great determination throughout and levelled matters through Rody Melanie only to fall to their fifth defeat in six qualifiers.
Victory moves Nigiera up to 13 points, four clear of second-placed South Africa who are away to Libya in Tunisia on Sunday evening.
The visitors survived an early bit of fortune as Ighalo seemed to have been brought down inside the area in the 11th minute, but the referee surprisingly pointed for a free-kick outside the area. Peter Etebo duly guided his resulting attempt inches wide of goal.
Nigeria continued to push forward in search of a goal but struggled in their pursuit of the opener against what looked a more organised Seychelles unit.
The hosts’ persistence finally paid dividends in the 35th minute following a foul on Wilfred Ndidi inside the area. Ighalo stepped up and fired past Ali Kong from the spot for his seventh goal of the campaign.
Kong pulled off a great save to deny Etebo Nigeria’s second in the 39th minute before Melanie levelled matters to the surprise of those gathered inside the stadium two minutes later.
The midfielder pounced on a goalkeeping blunder from Francis Uzoho, who’s recent woes continued on the national scene. Melanie finished off the gift with aplomb as the two teams headed for the tunnel on level pegging.
Onyekuru restored Nigeria’s lead five minutes after the interval, nodding home at the far post following a pin-point cross from Jamilu Collins.
The Super Eagles struggled in their attempt to close out the game and were subject to a string of nervy moments at the other end of the pitch, but again persistence paid off as Simon put the game beyond any reasonable doubt in the 90th minute.
The Spanish-based attacker added some gloss to a far from convincing display from the West Africans. Having emerged off the bench just moments earlier, Simon dazzled the tired-looking Seychelles defence before firing a low shot past the Pirates goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Nigeria (1) 3 (Ighalo 35′ penalty, Onyekuru 50′ Simon 90′)
Seychelles (1) 1 (Melanie 41′)
Nigeria: Uzoho; Collins, Troost-Ekong, Omeruo, Onyekuru, Ndidi, Shehu, Peter Etebo (Onuachu 65′), Iwobi (Ajayi 72′), Igalo (Simon 87′), Musa.
Seychelles: Kong; Manoo, Marie, Saminadin, Mellie, Trevor, Fanchette, Melanie (Damoo 82′), Padayachy (Sinon 71′), Waye-Hive, Hall (Monnaie 82′).