By Danny Wright

17th Nov, 2023 | 7:23am

Nigerian media blown away by 'instrumental' West Brom ace Semi Ajayi in 1-1 draw v Lesotho

West Brom defender Semi Ajayi came to Nigeria’s rescue to earn a draw against Lesotho in their first 2026 World Cup qualifying match.

On Thursday (16 November), the Super Eagles had to come from behind to grab a point against the African minnows, who went ahead through Motlomelo Mkhwanazi in the 56th minute.

Ajayi scored his first international goal 11 minutes later when he powered in a header from a corner.

Nigerian website Soccernet awarded Ajayi with a 9/10 for his performance, saying the defender was “instrumental in Nigeria’s draw, not only scoring the crucial equalizer but also showcasing solid defence and commendable runs from the backline.”

OwnGoalNigeria awarded Ajayi a lower rating of 6/10 but said he “bossed the game really well”.

AllNigeriaSoccer dubbed the ex-Rotherham ace as the Super Eagles’ “saviour”.

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Huge goal

Nigeria would have probably suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Lesotho – at home – if Ajayi didn’t pop up with that goal when he did.

For the Super Eagles to draw with the world’s 153rd-ranked team is bad enough but losing to them could have led to a huge reaction in West Africa.

Nigeria’s group is one that they should breeze through with South Africa the only other team in it that you’d expect to win many games.

However, they won’t be getting anywhere near the World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico if they don’t perform better than they did against Lesotho on Thursday.

Ajayi’s display was encouraging for West Brom.

He’s been out of the starting line-up since September due to injury issues so it’s good to see him bouncing back by getting 90 minutes under his belt as well as a goal.

It remains to be seen when he’ll be back in Carlos Corberan’s starting line-up but it won’t be long if he continues to play as he did against Lesotho.

In other West Brom news, Corberan expects a first-team ace to leave next summer for a “nominal fee”.