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Ighalo’s goal takes Super Eagles above gutsy Burundi

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Nigeria’s forward Odion Ighalo (L) celebrates his goal during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Nigeria and Burundi at Alexandria Stadium on June 22, 2019. Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

Nigeria was expected to over run the Swallows of Burundi in their opening game of the on-going African Nations Cup, but they had to dig in to their reserve to get a lone goal that separated the sides.

In terms of ratings, the Super Eagles are far ahead of Burundi, who are regarded as minnows in African football. But the East Africans came into the game hoping for the biggest upset in their football history.

They almost got it, but for the wood work and point-blank saves by Nigeria’s Daniel Akpeyi.

The well-organised Burundians held their own until the 77th minute when second half substitute, Odion Ighalo latched on to a back held pass by Ola Aina to place the ball beyond goalkeeper Jonathan Nahimana.

Nigeria will meet Guinea in their second game of the competition on Wednesday, while Burundi face Madagascar a day later. But the Eagles must perform better in the next game if they hoped for an early passage to the second round.

The Super Eagles struggled in the early stages of yesterday’s game and could have fallen behind after 14 minutes if Akpeyi had not beaten away Cedric Amissi’s powerful volley.

Speaking at the end of the game, Skipper John Obi Mikel said, “We knew it would be a tough game because they run a lot, but we took our time to get the goal.

“We played well, but we couldn’t break them down the way we wanted. But we are happy that we won our first game.”

Super Eagles’ Manager, Gernot Rohr reiterated the importance of winning the first game, saying they knew Burundi would be a tough customer.

“It was a very difficult match because Burundi is well organised. They were unbeaten in the qualifiers and they showed that they are here for business.

“You know in football, if you don’t get the first goal early you suffer.

“We brought in Ighalo when we noticed a lot of holes in their defence and we are happy it worked for us.”

Rohr revealed that it was difficult putting up a team for yesterday’s game because of the virus that ravaged his team.

He added: “We lost two players in training and some of our players were sick and could not play. We will now go back to look at the conditions of the players and plan for Wednesday.”


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