Odion Ighalo netted a hat-trick as Nigeria’s Super Eagles claimed an emphatic 4-0 win over Libya in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo yesterday.
Nigeria proved their quality with a commanding victory over a Libyan side rocked by the resignation of their head coach in the build-up to the clash and climb above their opponents, a point behind South Africa’s Bafana Bafana who dispatched the Seychelles 6-0 in Soweto yesterday also.
The Super Eagles went in the front as early as the fourth minute following a goalkeeping howler by Mohamed Abdaula. The Libyan captain coughed up possession before bringing down Ighalo inside the area, leaving the referee with little choice.
Having won the penalty, the former Watford man stepped up and duly converted from the spot; firing home into the left corner of the net to send the home fans into delirium.
The hosts continued to dominate the early proceedings and were only denied a second by the woodwork moments later. Oghenekaro Etebo fired in a pin-point free-kick which was well met by fellow England-based midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, but the latter’s header cannoned off the outside of the frame, with Abduala rooted to his spot.
Goalkeeper Francis Uzoho was then called into action at the other end of the pitch and had to be at his best to keep out the visitors, who threatened to hit the hosts with a sucker punch.
Nigeria suffered an injury blow in the 19th minute as Shehu Abdullahi was forced off the field with an injury – Ola Aina took his place on the park.
The game continued to ebb and flow and having successfully navigated through a spell of pressure from the Mediterranean Knights, Nigeria pushed forward and hit the post once more on the stroke of half time.
Jamilu Collins embarked on a lung-busting run down the left flank and looked sure to score after bypassing a couple of Libyan defenders on his way to bursting into the area, but the woodwork ultimately denied him what would’ve been a memorable goal.
Ighalo netted a second in the 58th minute following a defence-splitting pass by Alex Iwobi. The China-based forward, though, still had a lot to do, but showed great composure to round the Libyan shot-stopper before firing home into an empty net.
He then scored a third with 69 minutes on the clock. Ahmed Musa found the goal-poacher in acres of space inside the area and having sorted out his feat, Ighalo bundled home the rebound after Abdaula had denied him at the first time of asking.
Samuel Kalu netted a fourth for the Nigerians in the 90th minute, curling home an unstoppable right-footed shot from the edge of the area to cap a perfect day for the Super Eagles.
Both teams clash again in a Matchday 4 fixture at the 18,000 –capacity Stade Taïeb Mhiri in the city of Sfax, Tunisia on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick, has dedicated the Eagles’ win to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Yesterday’s match was the first in the fresh tenure of the Amaju Pinnick –led NFF, following the elections in Katsina three weeks ago that handed the board another four –year term. And it was instructive that Alhaji Aminu Maigari, Pinnick’s predecessor and major challenger in the election, was beside the trailblazer and history –maker in the VIP Box at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium.
“We dedicate this victory to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari for his continued massive support to all the National Teams, the NFF and Nigerian Football generally. The President and his wonderful team take the credit for the conducive environment in which Nigerian Football is thriving.
“I also want to appreciate Governor Udom Emmanuel and his Government in Akwa Ibom State. They have remained pillars of support for the Super Eagles for several years now, and the support of the good people of Akwa Ibom State deserves kudos as well.”
Pinnick, who is also the 1st Vice President of CAF, commended NFF’s partners and sponsors, specially praising Official Optimum Partner, AITEO Group for their huge contributions to all facets of the Nigerian game.
“I wish to also thank Coca-Cola, Nigerian Breweries, Zenith Bank, Nike, Cadbury Nigeria PLC, Emzor, WAPIN Insurance, TGI, 1XBET, Peak Milk, Simba Group and SuperSport for their contributions which we very much appreciate.”