After only managing draws in their first Group C matches, Africa Cup of Nations heavyweights Nigeria and Zambia settled for one point apiece again, playing to a 1-1 draw in Nelspruit on Friday.
Nigeria overcame the early setback of a missed John Obi Mikel penalty with Emmanuel Emenike’s goal on 57 minutes, but, Zambia responded with a penalty of their own, with goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene netting off a stunning spot kick to secure the draw.
At the 25-minute mark, it looked as though Nigeria had found the initial breakthrough. Davies Nkausu, under pressure from Ahmed Musa, brought the CSKA Moscow man down, with the ref not hesitating to point to the spot. Mikel stepped up, with the Chelsea midfielder looking to recreate his crucial converted penalty against Liberia in the qualifiers. It was not to be, though, as his spot kick was tame and scuffed, and thudded harmlessly off the post.
The game progressed in a cagey, uninspiring fashion, with Emenike – Nigeria’s goalscorer in their first match – was unable to contend with the many balls played over the top of the Chipolopolo defense.
A little more than 10 minutes into the second half, the young striker finally made his mark with a fine finish pushing the Super Eagles ahead. Mikel made amends for his earlier miss and played Emenike in through the middle, and the striker made no mistake to score.
Zambia sought far and wide for the inspiration that would see them claim some points, it eventually came from an unlikely source. The referee gave a penalty for the Chipolopolo after minimum contact on Emmanuel Mayuka by Ogenyi Onazi. Goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene stepped up, and looking as calm as can be, he dispatched a beautiful spot kick past Vincent Enyeama.
The result leaves the holder Zambia and Nigeria tied on two points prior to Ethiopa and Burkina Faso, who are tied with one point apiece, playing their second group match. Zambia will play Burkina Faso in the final group game Tuesday, and Nigeria will face Ethiopa.