Nigeria needed a second-half strike from substitute Odion Ighalo to edge past tournament debutants Burundi 1-0 at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday.
Burundi put up a spirited performance which got them close to securing their first ever point in the tournament, however, Ighalo’s goal in the 77th minute shattered their dreams.
It was an enthralling first half as Nigeria dominated possession and came close to scoring through Ebere Onuachu who headed straight to Burundi’s goalkeeper, Jonathan Nahimana.
Amissi quickly darted into the Nigerian box and was found with a beautiful clipped pass but his volley from 12 yards was saved.
The match turned into an end to end action with loads of attempts from both sides. In the 29th minute, the Super Eagles came so close as Arsenal forward, Alex Iwobi went past his marker before laying the ball to Chukwueze but the Villarreal man skied his shot.
Burundi also kept probing as their standout midfielder of the game, Bigirimana went for goal with a free kick from way out but Nigeria goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi managed to bundle the ball away. Burundi nearly broke the deadline eight minutes from half time as Nsabiyumva’s looping header hit the crossbar.
Bad news for Nigeria three minutes from the break as Abdullahi Shehu picked up a knock and the gaffer, Gernot Rohr replaced him with Chidozie Awaziem.
The Eagles continued their momentum into the second half and kept on piling pressure on Burundi. The Nigerian gaffer substituted Paul Onuachu for Idion Ighalo. Less than five minutes on the pitch, the former Watford striker scored the opener after a daft backheel assist from Aina to put Nigeria ahead in the game and ultimately sealed victory for the three time champions.
The East Africans threw everything at Nigeria but the resolute defence of the Super Eagles kept the scoreline intact.
The win takes Nigeria to the top of Group C temporarily as Guinea and Madagascar will square off at 8:00 pm.
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