Ikechukwu Ezenwa once again produced a masterful display as Nigeria defeated Sierra Leone 2-0 in their WAFU Cup round of 16 clash played at the Cape Sports Stadium on Monday night.
Playing barely 24 hours after arriving Ghana for their opening game, Ezenwa kept Nigeria’s home based Super Eagles in the game with some brilliant saves before Osas Okoro and Peter Eneji scored in the final ten minutes to send Nigeria to the quarter finals.
Monday’s game was earlier billed to hold on Saturday but was moved forward by 48 hours to allow Nigerian players feature for their clubs on the final day of their league season.
Obviously fresher, the Sierra Leoneans had the better of the opening half but met a stumbling block in Ezenwa who just a week ago was playing for the main team in a World Cup qualifier in Cameroon.
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The FC Ifeanyiubah goalkeeper did well to deny striker Donald Wellington who latched on to a through pass after 11 minutes before he denied Mahmoud Fofanah four minutes later.
Fofanah again tested Ezenwa from 20 yards just after the hour mark but the former Under 20 and Under-23 international was equal to the task of smothering his effort.
Nigeria were reduced to half chances as the Lobi Stars duo of Tony Okpotu and Kingsley Eduwo could not break the resistance of their opponents.
Salisu Yusuf’s men however turned on the heat in the final quarter of an hour as substitutes Peter Eneji (from league champions Plateau United) and Gabriel Okechukwu threatened their opponents relentlessly.
The breakthrough came six minutes from time when wing back and set-piece specialist Osas Okoro curled home a free kick after Rabiu Ali was fouled at the edge of the box. One became two three minutes later when Eneji’s effort went in off the inside of the post.
There was still enough time though for Gabriel Okechukwu to rattle the cross bar as the Nigerians secure their passage to the next round.