Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) after his solitary strike gave Nigeria a 1-0 win over Egypt in Garoua, Cameroon on Tuesday.
The Super Eagles faced the Pharaohs in their first group game at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON2021) and gave their fans something to savour for a while with an exhilarating and all encompassing performance.
Nigeria’s wingers Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze went straight against the Egyptians causing problems for their full backs especially the former but were sometimes let down by their final balls.
It was one of Simon’s delivery though that led to what would turn out to be the only goal of the game on the half hour mark. His cross from the left was headed by Egyptian defender Ahmed Hegazy into the path of Joe Aribo whose flick to Iheanacho was cushioned by the striker and rifled home on the half volley.
GOAL! IHEANACHO RIFLES HOME FOR NIGERIA!— ACLSports (@acl_sports) January 11, 2022
Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz was forced to make two changes within the first 45 minutes but the fortunes of the Pharaohs could not be turned around as Nigeria continued to probe on resumption of play in the second half.
Striker Taiwo Awoniyi’s header was denied by Ahmed El Shenawy early in the second half before Iheanacho missed a glorious opportunity to get his brace after a brilliant 70 metres run by Ola Aina.
Egypt’s best chance of the game came in the second half when Mohammed Salah spurned a Nigerian offside trap but could not get enough power on the ball with goalkeeper Maduka Okoye blocking from point blank range.
Nigerian substitute Chidera Ejuke who came on for Samuel Chukwueze also had the chances, twice to bury the game for Nigeria but was denied on both occasions by El Shenawy.
Augustine Eguavoen’s wards saw off the game with ease but must check on the injury situations of defender Kenneth Omeruo and Wilfred Ndidi as both had knocks during the game with the former replaced by Semi Ajayi.
Nigeria will face Sudan in their next group game on Saturday at the same venue in Garoua, North West Cameroon. The Sudanese held Guinea-Bissau to a pulsating 0-0 draw in the late game in Garoua on Tuesday.
Maduka Okoye; Ola Aina, William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo (Semi Ajayi 79′), Zaidu Sanusi; Wilfred Ndidi, Joe Aribo; Kelechi Iheanacho (Kelechi Nwakali 79′); Moses Simon (Alex Iwobi 90′), Taiwo Awoniyi (Sadiq Umar 71′), Samuel Chukwueze (Chidera Ejuke 71′).
Photo Credit: Tobi Adepoju (Oga Nla Media)
Fisayo Dairo reporting from Garoua