A magnificent goal by Manchester City of England starlet Kelechi Iheanacho steered the Super Eagles to a 1-0 win over Tanzania’s Taifa Stars in their concluding 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Uyo on Saturday.
In Franco-Germany Gernot Rohr’s first match in charge, the three –time African champions exhibited great spirit all round, culminating in an attacking play in which a dozen good chances were created, mostly fluffed by Victor Moses and Odion Ighalo.
Watford FC of England forward Ighalo is yet to score for Nigeria from open play in a competitive game at senior level, and continued in typical fashion by lashing a great chance over the bar after only two minutes, when face to face with the excellent goalkeeper Aishi Manula.
Manula thwarted a brilliant Victor Moses run in the 13 minute, and as Nigeria poured forward, Ahmed Musa miscued his shot from another good opportunity, a header by Captain Mikel John Obi flew away from the face of goal and Iheanacho’s shot was well saved.
Manula continued to play the spoilsport for an expectant full house at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, led by Governor Udom Emmanuel. In the 28 minute, the extravagant Moses whipped another good chance over the bar, and Musa saw his shot fly in the wrong direction before Manula stopped shots from Moses and Ighalo.
The Taifa Stars would have hit the Eagles against the run of play, but Balogun and Ekong did well to cover Carl Ikeme when Captain Mbwana Samatta came close. Just before half time, a wonderful move all the way from the defence saw Nigeria presented with another chance, but Moses shot over the bar once more.
In the second half, Iheanacho shot too high and Mikel headed over from a corner kick, before Manula serially saved from Musa, Iheanacho and Mikel. Mikel then shot over the bar before he was replaced by Wilfred Ndidi.
In the 78 minute, Ahmed Musa’s short corner kick found Iheanacho well –placed for a rocket that Manula could not see and which shook the net for the only goal of the match.
At the end, Coach Rohr said: “I am happy we played well and created so many chances. What we have to improve on is how to convert those chances.” On his part, Tanzania Coach Charles Mkwasa hailed the performance of his brave Stars, saying he is building a new team following elimination from the 2017 Afcon and the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying race.