Super Eagles rule over ponderous Pharaohs
Kelechi Iheanacho’s first-half strike was enough for Nigeria to take all three points in their opening Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) group game, with the ‘Super Eagles’ recording their first competitive victory over Egypt since March 1990 in the process.
Despite being amongst the favourites to leave Cameroon as champions of Africa, neither Nigeria or Egypt were able to gain a foothold early on, with Mostafa Mohamed’s tame strike for the latter being the only major sight of goal inside the opening 30 minutes. What had been a flat start to proceedings was summed up midway through the half, when referee Bakary Gassama halted proceedings to request a change of ball.
In need of a spark from somewhere, the ‘Super Eagles’ stepped up the intensity and found a breakthrough on the half-hour mark, when Kelechi Iheanacho rifled beyond an outstretched Mohammed El Shenawy with a thunderous left-footed strike. Desperate for some respite, a shaky Egypt backline continued to concede chances to a ravenous Nigeria attack, and were arguably fortunate to have only been one down at the break.
Emerging from the break in search of a second goal, Nigeria passed up two golden chances to double their advantage. A close-range Taiwo Awoniyi header was tipped onto the crossbar only by the fingertips of El Shenawy, whilst a heavy Iheanacho touch denied the Leicester City forward a simple tap-in.
Egypt belatedly began to grow in stature as stoppage time loomed, with Mohamed Salah seeing his off-balance effort comfortably smothered by Maduka Okoye. Yet, despite enjoying most of the late possession, Egypt were unable to carve a way past a resilient ‘Super Eagles’ defence. In turn, they drew a blank in an AFCON group game for the first time since 2017, and allowed three-time champions Nigeria take early control of Group E.