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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 March, 2003, 16:04 GMT
Okocha inspires vital win
Peter Kumwenda
BBC Sport in Malawi

Nigerian captain Jay Jay Okocha
Okocha was majestic in midfield
Nigeria's Nations Cup plans are back on track after they beat Malawi by a goal to nil in Blantyre on Saturday.

John Utaka got the only goal in the tenth minute at the Chichiri Stadium in front of a crowd of 60,000.

The striker took advantage of a static Malawi defence which failed to clear a corner from Nigerian captain Jay Jay Okocha.

His powerful right-foot shot to the near post silenced the home fans.

Malawi, who had made just one change from the side that beat Angola in October, struggled to create clear cut chances and posed few problems for Nigerian goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama.

The Super Eagles thought they had put the game beyond doubt on the half-hour when a long-range free-kick from the inspirational Okocha flew into Malawi's net.

But the referee disallowed the goal because he said the kick was taken before he had blown his whistle.

Malawi, who put veteran midfielder Ernest Mtawali onto the pitch in a desperate measure nine minutes before the end, put up a determined fight in the second half, but were let down by a lack of composure in front of goal.

Nigeria were content to defend their lead, but squandered chances of their own through Utaka and his strike partner Yakubu Aiyigbeni.

Nigeria now top their group and are in a strong position to qualify for Tunisia 2004.

For Malawi it looks likely that they will once again miss out on Africa's biggest football competition which they have attended only once, in 1984.

Malawi Philip Nyasula, Lackson Mtambo, Maupo Msowoya, Joseph Gatros, Itai Nundwe, Fisher Kondowe (Ernest Mtawali 82), McDonald Yobe (Shabba Manson Phiri 54), Peter Mponda, Peter Mgangira, Russell Mwafulirwa (Victor Phiri 72), Essau Kanyenda
Nigeria Vincent Enyeama, Joseph Yobo, Ifeanyi Udeze, Joseph Enakhire, Seyi Olajenbesi, Ikpe Ekong, Austin Okocha, John Utaka, Femi Opabunmi (Okechukwu Ileagu 72), Chukwudi Nworgu, Yakubu Aiyebeni (Benedict Akwuegbu 77)
Referee: Aaron Nkole (Zambia)

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