Nigeria became the first team to book their place in the knockout stages of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) with a 1-0 win over Guinea on Wednesday afternoon.
The Super Eagles started their AFCON campaign with a 1-0 victory against Burundi in the Group B opener. The Syli Nationale were surprisingly held to a 2-2 draw by less fancied Madagascar.
There was a nervy start for Super Eagles goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi who only succeeded in spilling Ibrahima Cisse’s shot from range. He was bailed out by his defence who cleared from danger in the sixth minute.
Nigeria turned up the heat down the wings in the blazing conditions. Moments after Alex Iwobi skinned his man, Ahmed Musa weaved his way into a dangerous area before teeing up Odion Ighalo who failed to convert from close range.
Chances continued to come at either end of the pitch as Wilfred Ndidi sent his header attempt from a corner-kick inches over the crossbar.
Following what was an exhilarating start, things calmed down in terms of goal scoring chances with both teams struggling to find their man. There was plenty of niggle to add – understandable with lots on the line.
In the 23rd minute, Guinea striker François Kamano fired his free-kick attempt inches over the crossbar following a foul by Moses Simon.
Guinea defender Simon Falette was booked following a crunching challenge on Ighalo.
Iwobi found his range from range, but Ibrahim Kone was up to the task. The resultant corner-kick came to nothing.
Eagles striker Ighalo beat the offside trap before firing his shot into the side-netting. Musa was calling for the ball, but the forward decided to go for goal himself from a more acute angle.
First half of the tight encounter ended in a 0-0 draw.
The second half got underway in Alexandria with changes to either side.
There was break in play as Keita received some treatment. The Liverpool midfielder came into the tournament having yet to recover from the injury he sustained against Barcelona last month.
Nigeria took control of the match in the opening 10 minutes of the second half with Ndidi the main protagonist.
Another chance was carved out by the Super Eagles in the 61st minute of action. Goalkeeper Kone did well to deny Iwobi once more.
The Syli Nationale pressed and pushed bodies forward in search of the equaliser. Traore whipped in a free-kick into the dangerous area, but Akpeyi stood his ground to clear from danger.
Nigeria eventually found the breakthrough in the 73rd minute. Kenneth Omeruo nodded home from Moses Simon’s corner-kick.
In the end, however, the Guineans were unable to conjure any sort of comeback, as Gernot Rohr’s charges eased to a slim win that sealed the Super Eagles’ place in the knockout stages.
Nigeria: Akpeyi; Aina, Balogun, Awaziem, Omeruo, Ndidi, Etebo, Musa, Ighalo, Simon, Iwobi.
Guinea: Kone; Sylla, Seka, Simon, Dyrestam, Diawara, N.Keita, Cisse, Kamano, Traore, Kaba.