Friday, 3 September 2021

Nigeria begins 2022 World Cup qualifiers with a win


Kelechi Iheanacho’s brace guided Nigeria to a 2-0 victory over Liberia in their opening fixture in the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers in Lagos on Friday.

Iheanacho's efforts at the Teslim Balogun Stadium took his international tally to 11 goals as he closes in on Jay-Jay Okocha and Julius Aghahowa's mark of 14 goals in the national team colours.

The Super Eagles started the encounter on a stronger foot with the most attempts on goal and greater possession that paid off with two goals in the first 45 minutes.

Following a fine team movement, Joe Aribo nearly broke the deadlock in the opening 20 minutes but his effort lacked the power to threaten goalkeeper Ashley Williams.

The hosts kept pushing for an early goal which they got in the 23rd minute after Iheanacho fired his strike past Williams, thanks to a corner-kick from Alex Iwobi.

Liberia responded immediately with a free-kick from captain Allen Njie but it was brilliantly saved by Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper Maduka Okoye. The Lone Star skipper was then shown the first yellow card of the encounter for a clumsy challenge on Iheanacho.

Following a long throw-in from Jamilu Collins, Iwobi headed the ball down for the Leicester City star who put the ball past the helpless Williams to double the lead on the stroke of half-time.

Immediately after the restart, Iheanacho had the chance to grab his hat-trick but his header was wide of the target.

Nigeria continued their dominance and just before the hour-mark they had another chance to extend their lead after a fine series of movements from Ndidi in the penalty area but the final pass could not be converted by Iwobi.

Victor Osimhen kept pushing for his goal and he nearly found the net with his header off Moses Simon’s corner-kick but it was parried to safety by goalkeeper Williams.

The Napoli talisman ended the encounter without scoring as he was replaced by Paul Onuachu and Bordeaux winger Samuel Kalu replaced Simon in the 78th minute.

A few minutes later, Nigeria made another double substitution as captain Ahmed Musa and Abdullahi Shehu came on for Iheanacho and Iwobi, respectively.

Aribo was replaced on the stroke on full-time by Watford’s Oghenekaro Etebo.

In the recognition of their individual performances, Iheanacho was voted as the Man of the Match while Iwobi claimed another one million naira as the Most Valuable Player.

The victory powered Nigeria to the top of the Group C stable with three points after their rivals Cape Verde and Central African Republic played out a 1-1 draw on Wednesday.

Next up for the three-time African champions is a trip to Vape Verde for their second group match on September 7 while Liberia battle Central African Republic on Monday.

source here

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