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Ighalo’s hat-trick brightens Eagles’ chance for AFCON


Nigerian forward Odion Ighalo (C) heads to control the ball during the African Cup of Nations qualification match between Nigeria and Libya in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State in southern Nigeria, on October 13, 2018. – Nigeria beat Libya 4-0 with Odion Ighalo grabbing a hat-trick for the Super Eagles to get their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign firmly back on track in Uyo, southern Nigeria. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Nigeria’s hope of booking a place in next year’s Africa Cup of Nation (AFCON) received a boost yesterday with a 4-0 thrashing of The Mediterranean Knights of Libya by the Eagles in the third match of the CAF Group E qualifiers played at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

A sterling performance by the Eagles through the hat-trick of Odion Ighalo in the fourth, 58th and 69th and a superb curl by Samuel Kalu in the 90th minute was all that the Eagles needed to launch their way back to picking one of the two available tickets to the tournament holding in Cameroun.

The Eagles had begun their onslaught in the early minutes of the encounter, with Ighalo fighting for every possession of the ball. This later paid off, as the Libyan goalkeeper fouled him in the second minute of the game. The referee, without hesitation, blew the whistle for a penalty. Ighalo converted the resultant kick in the fourth minute of the game.

Thereafter, the Libyans took control of the midfield, pressing harder for an equaliser. The Libyans had better possession of the ball and were unfortunate not to have scored a goal in the bad pitch.

Super Eagles captain, Ahmed Musa, had a chance to increase the tally for the host in the 11th minute, with a header, which he missed. Almost immediately, the Libyans too had a rare opportunity to level score in the 12th minute, as Francis Uzoho saved the ugly situation before it was cleared out by the Eagles defence.

Shehu Abdullahi, who had a good game in the early minutes of the first half was fouled on several occasion by the aggressive Libyans, until he could not continue again with the game, and was replaced by Ola Aina in the 18th minute. The Libyans later took control of the game as the Eagles again struggled to complete passes before the end of the first half.

The second stanza began on a bright note with the Eagles showing aggression, and making efforts to increase the score. Effort by Wilfred Ndidi in the 54th minute went wide, as the combination of Oghenekaro Etebo and Alex Iwobi showed that the team was not missing Eagles captain, John Mikel Obi. The midfield soon produced result, as a vision pass from Iwobi soon connected Ighalo, who made good use of it, as he beat the Libyan goalkeeper to make it two goals for the host.

Ighalo soon completed his first hat-trick in his international career, as he scored another effort during a goal-mouth scramble in the 69th minute, which the Libyans defence failed to deal with.

Though, Samuel Kalu had a good outing, he missed so many scoring chances, which did not go down well with the Nigerian fans, who were praying for goal. He later put his name in the scorer’s sheet through a pass from Henry Onyekuru, as his goal lit up the Godswill Akpabio Stadium with a perfect curl that sent the crowd into jubilation.

However, The Mediterranean Knights will have an opportunity to avenge their loss in a return leg on day four of the AFCON qualifiers across the continent this week.

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