FC Midtjyland striker Paul Onuachu scored a thunderous volley within seconds of his full debut to hand Nigeria a 1-0 friendly win over Egypt at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba on Monday evening.
The game was a pre-Africa Cup of Nations friendly game between three time champions Nigeria and hosts of this summer’s tournament, Egypt. Onuachu was handed a starting berth after a 25-minute debut against Seychelles on Friday.
Nigeria got into the lead within ten seconds of starting the game. Onuachu outstretched his long leg to control John Ogu’s long ball beyond the reach of Mahmoud Alan before unleashing a fierce volley from 18 yards into the top corner. A brilliant way to begin his full debut.
The Egyptians hardly had a sniff of Nigeria’s goal in the first period although they had the lion share of ball possession. Alex Iwobi had Nigeria’s other decent chance of the half but his tame effort from the edge of the box was easily claimed by Egypt goalkeeper Mahmoud Abdelrehim.
The pace of the game stepped up in the second half but both teams put up resilient defensive displays in most key situations – Brighton’s Leon Balogun especially notable with a brilliant performance for the Nigerians.
Egypt’s captain on the night, Mohamed El Neny headed a free kick over just before the hour mark before Troost-Ekong did same at the other end. A raft of substitutions was to follow, started by an injury to John Ogu which saw him replaced by Semi Ajayi in the 68th minute.
While Onuachu continued to impress with his touches and physicality – the fans obviously appreciative of his efforts -, Galatasaray star Henry Onyekuru also produced one of his best performances in a green and white jersey. His menacing runs down the right and overall contribution to team’s defensive structure would have gladdened the heart of head coach Gernot Rohr.
Onyekuru produced a moment of brilliance in the 73rd minute, going past three Egyptians before setting up Alex Iwobi whose effort was blocked inside the box. That was the Arsenal star’s last contribution of the game – Stoke City midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo coming on to replace him.
The visitors then threatened on a couple of occasions to draw level in the final ten minutes. A flick down the middle put Hassan Mahmoud clean through on goal but the midfielder fired his effort over after intense pressure from behind by Balogun.
Nigeria’s second half goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa would then produce a double save to prevent the North Africans from equalising. The 30-year old used a strong left hand to keep out substitute Amr Wada’s fierce drive before diving low to save the rebound by Mahgoub.
Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr gave home based stars Ikouwem Utin and Ndifreke Effiong their debuts with the A team in stoppage time as Nigeria staved off the Egyptians’ late rally.
Tuesday’s game ultimately served as a good test for Egypt’s array of fringe national team players as the Pharaohs prosecuted the game without England based duo Mohamed Salah, Ahmed Hegazi and some others as coach Aguirre elected to look at some peripheral players.
Both teams will be in other friendly games action starting from May before the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Egypt.
Akpeyi (Ezenwa 46′); Shehu (Ndifreke 90′), Ekong (c), Balogun, Jamilu Collins; Ndidi, Ogu (Semi Ajayi 68′); Onyekuru, Iwobi (Etebo 73′), Moses Simon (Ikouwem 90′); Onuachu (Ighalo 85′)