Iheanacho Rescues the Super Eagles in Injury Time to Book AFCON 2023 Spot

Iheanacho Rescues the Super Eagles in Injury Time to Book AFCON 2023 Spot
Credit: Iconsport

Nigerian fans can breathe easy as the Nigeria national football team, the Super Eagles, have sealed their ticket to the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023 tournament after defeating Sierra Leone on Sunday.

The match, played at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium was a keenly contested one but Napoli striker Victor Osimhen gave Nigeria the upper hand as he extended his lead at the top of the AFCON 2023 qualifiers top scorers race. The match ended 3-2 in favour of the Super Eagles. Nigeria have also regained top spot in Group A with the win after Guinea-Bissau usurped them briefly during the week.

The match as it happened: First half

José Peseiro put out a 4-4-1-1 formation with 2023 Capocannoniere award winner Victor Osimhen leading the line. The line up was also deployed as a 4-3-3 at times during the game.

The game was end to end from the first blast of the whistle of referee Ismail Mahmood. The Leone Stars and the Super Eagles traded blows for the first 25 minutes of the game but it was Nigeria who came closest first.

Osimhen forced a big save, which was the first big chance of the game in the 15th minute after some great wing play from Simon. Four minutes later, he would open the scoring after an over the top ball from captain Omeruo found him.

He outmuscled and outpaced his markers to deftly chip the ball over the onrushing Sierra Leone goalkeeper. That was his 16th goal for Nigeria and a goal which took him closer to Super Eagles history. Chukwueze missed the chance to extend the lead in the 27th minute when he raced through on goal but failed to slot the ball past the Sierra Leone shot stopper.

In the 33rd minute, Osimhen doubled the tally with his brace goal to give Nigeria a good lead going into the second half. The half ended 2 – 1 as Mustapha Bundu pulled one goal back for the hosts in the 41st minute. It was a half that saw the Super Eagles spurn a lot of chances and one which the Sierra Leonians had their goalkeeper as their main protagonist.

The match as it happened: Second half

The half started with an injury scare for Nigerian fans and most definitely, for Napoli fans as Osimhen was brought down in the 49th minute while trying to chase down a ball. He recovered but was silent for the rest of the time he spent on the pitch thus failing to bag his second hat-trick for the Super Eagles in 26 caps.

Bundu, the Leone Stars goalscorer, almost got his own brace but he clashed with debutant goalkeeper Adebayo Adeleye in the 59th minute. The goalkeeper spent some time being treated before the game went on.

Unlike the first half, there was little penalty box action from both sides. The tides changed when Peseiro did a triple substitution in the 70th minute. Frank Onyeka replaced Aribo, moving Iwobi into the role behind Osimhen, while Kevin Akpoguma came on in place of Osayi-Samuel and Kelechi Iheanacho in place of Chukwueze.

Iheanacho had the chance to extend Nigeria's lead after a brilliant play by Osimhen but his tame shot was cleared off the line. That was the last major action for Osimhen in the game and four minutes later, Sierra Leone would equaliser while Nigeria were trying to adapt to Taiwo Awoniyi, who replaced the former LOSC Lille striker.

The draw would have still qualified Nigeria but it was not the result the fans watching at home wanted to see. The Super Eagles pressed on for a third which came through Iheanacho in the 95th minute following excellent fullback play from Sanusi. The Super Eagles condemned Sierra Leone to a defeat at home, thereby ending their AFCON qualification chances.

This article was most recently revised and updated 11 months ago