By Ayoola Adeleke
Two goals in either half from Leicester City forward, Kelechi Iheanacho were enough for the Super Eagles of Nigeria as they began their Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers journey with a sweet 2-0 victory over the Leone Stars of Liberia, on Friday 3rd September, 2021, at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos.
The Eagles went into the game with full confidence, having had good statistical edge over the Liberians in past encounters with 9 victories from 14 matches and were quick to start registering their intent to sweep the group’s maximum points with good display against the world number 46 team on the FIFA ranking, stringing together good passes and aiming for goals from the blast of the whistle.
The Eagles’ efforts will pay off on the 22nd minutee after Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi exchanged passes from a corner kick and the former found the tight corner of Williams Ashley’s goal to throw the already salivating fans into roaring jubilation.
The Leone Stars had few passes stringed together and mounted pressure on the Eagles’ defense, especially the right back, but Ola Aina proved to Gernot Rohr he was wrong for selecting him ahead of Akpoguma and Ebuehi, standing firm and keeping his attackers at bay.
The Eagles went into the dugout with peace of mind, to the cheering of the teeming excited fans at the Teslim Balogun stadium.
The Eagles resumed the second half, picking it from where they stopped and in quick play, they added to their one goal advantage. Jamilu Collins threw a threatening ball into the Liberian box, unrushing Osimehn couldn’t connect well, but Alex Iwobi had his head flipped it back for a well positioned Kelechi Iheanacho, who calmly controlled the ball with his left foot, turned sharply against his marker and slotted home his second of the day with his right foot in what was a confusing goal for helpless Liberia’s Ashley, who watched on as the ball rolled past him into the net.
Coach of the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr made few changes as the time wore on, throwing Paul Onuachu and Samuel Kalu for Victor Osimhen and Moses Simon respectively on the 77th minute; another double substitution was made by the Franco-German by throwing Ahmed Musa and Shehu Abdullahi into the fray for Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi respectively. The 99th international cap for Musa. Also on the substitution list was Oghenekaro Etebo, going on for Rangers’ Ayodele Aribo on the 89th minute for some feelings of the sweet victory.
Nigeria with the win sits atop of Group C with three points ahead of Cape Verde and Central Africa Republic (CAR), both on a point.
Earlier on Thursday, September 2nd, Central Africa Republic in the first game of group C, forced Cape Verde to a 1-1 draw as Tresor Toropite’s 53rd-minute strike forced an equaliser to Julio Tavares’ 36th-minute goal for Cape Verde, to pick up 1 points each going into the match day 2.
The three time African champions will leave the shores of the country for Praia, where they will face off with Cape Verde in the match day two of the qualifiers, scheduled for September 7th, with the other group’s match involving Liberia and Central Africa Republic slated for an earlier date, September 6, in Monrovia.