Afcon 2021: Iheanacho powers Nigeria to victory over Salah’s Egypt

Afcon 2021: Iheanacho powers Nigeria to victory over Salah’s Egypt

Kelechi Iheanacho scored with a thunderous shot from inside the box to give Nigeria a vital victory over the Pharaohs of Egypt.

Mo Salah was missing for much of the game as the threat he poses was snuffed out by the combination of Troost Ekong and Kenneth Omeruo.

Despite the opposition to hosting the competition, the Africa Cup of Nations is on, with much excitement. The idea of watching star players like Mo Salah, Riyahd Mahrez, Sadio Mane and Kelechi Iheanacho over four weeks in one competition is exciting.

The Africa Cup of Nations is well and truly underway, with the opening matches showing that the term minnow is, perhaps, a tad bit overstated. The first few matches have shown that the top dogs have to work hard to keep the tag, as the minnows are not rolling over as expected.

Cameroon had to labour for a victory over Burkina Faso, while Algeria struggled against Sierra Leone and Senegal needed a bit of fortune to overcome the brave Warriors of Zimbabwe. It is the way African football stands at the moment, with the big teams having to earn their spurs all over again.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria, despite their rich history in the tournament, are not regarded as tournament favourites and were given no chance of victory against the Pharaohs of Egypt. A solitary goal by Kelechi Iheanacho was enough to give the Super Eagles three points.

Iheanacho delivers the big punch

The big talk about the encounter between Nigeria and Egypt was how Nigeria had a soft defence, and Mo Salah to do a number on them. Egypt were firm favourites to win this tie, but someone forgot to send the script to the Super Eagles.

As soon as the Gambian referee Papa Gassama got the match underway, there was clear intent by the Super Eagles. They came into the game with determination as they played high and forced the Egyptians to defend deep inside their box.

Like Moses troubling Pharaoh with his demand to let his people go, Moses Simon was causing problems for the Pharaohs on the right flank. Moses dribbled and turned the Egyptian defence in and out but fell short of parting the red sea. Iheanacho combined well with Taiwo Awoniyi, with Joe Aribo giving ample support to the attack and defence.

The ice breaker came on the half-hour mark after the Egyptians, under pressure from Awoniyi, failed to clear a Moses Simon cross properly. The clearance fell to Joe Aribo, who teed it up nicely for Kelechi Iheanacho to rifle home a bullet beyond the reach of El Shenawy.

Eguavoen tactically overwhelmed Carlos Quieroz

The foreign versus local coaches debate will continue to rage, and Nigeria’s victory over Egypt will give supporters of local coaches fodder for their case.

Eguavoen lined up his side in a 4-4-2 formation with Iheanacho playing behind Taiwo Awoniyi. The plan worked to a tee as the Super Eagles looked like the great teams of the past. Their slick passing, dribbles, cohesion and, strict adherence to the plan frustrated the Egyptians.

The combination of Troost Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo and Wilfred Ndidi snuffed out the threat of Mo Salah, who cut a frustrated figure.

The Super Eagles powered to victory against the highly fancied Egyptians, sending a strong message to everyone that they are not in Cameroon to play. Nigeria thus tops the table after the first game as Guinea-Bissau played a 0-0 draw with Sudan.

This article was most recently revised and updated 2 years ago

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