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Etebo returns to fitness, Kalu makes Watford debut as Arsenal go fourth 

THE Super Eagles got a huge boost ahead of their World Cup playoffs against Ghana’s Black Stars as Oghenekaro Etebo has returned to full fitness.

The key midfielder had been out with injury for five months and could not make Nigeria’s squad to the Africa Cup of Nations in January, but he was on the bench for Watford on Saturday in their 3-2 home defeat to Arsenal in the Premier League.

The two other Nigerians at Watford were involved in the on-field action, with Emmanuel Dennis playing the full game and Samuel Kalu making a cameo appearance.

Kalu joined the Hornets in January from Bordeaux but he had not seen a single minute of action until Saturday when he was brought on to replace Tom Cleverley in the 89th minute as Watford desperately chased the equaliser.

Both Etebo and Dennis are in Nigeria’s squad for the World Cup playoffs billed for late March.

Watford put up a brave fight but Arsenal had too much quality for the hosts at Vicarage Road, the Gunners scoring through Martin Ordegaard, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli. Chucho Martinez and Moussa Sissoko struck for Watford.

Arsenal drew first blood in the contest when Ordegaard finished a smooth move off Xaka’s assist in the fifth minute. Hernandez brought Watford level six minutes later with an audacious overhead kick from Sissoko’s cross.

The Gunners then took a two-goal lead, Saka rifling home from inside the box in the 30th minute and Martinelli striking a precise effort into the net from just outside the box early in the second half after being set up by the impressive Alexandre Lacazette.

Sissoko’s response was too little, too late as Arsenal rose to fourth and took pole position in the race for a UEFA Champions League spot.

Watford are second from bottom, three points from safety.

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