Nigeria 1-0 Burundi
Alexandria Stadium, Alexandria
ALEXANDRIA – Nigeria required an Odion Ighalo second half goal to get past Burundi in their group B opener at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday.
The striker who had replaced Paul Onaucha four minutes earlier, calmly slotted into the back of the net as the game looked destined for a goalless draw.
Nigeria looked to be in close control of proceedings at the start but would concede the first real chance as Razak Amisi pounced onto a lofted through ball, shooting straight at Daniel Akpeyi in the Super Eagle’s goal with 13 minutes played.
Moments later, Akpeyi nearly turned into a laughing stalk, miss controlling a routine back-pass but the custodian was relieved to see the ball go out for just a fruitless corner.
After a quarter of an hour without troubling Burundi, Paul Onuacha got Nigeria’s first shot on target but the forward’s lame effort was comfortably saved by Jonathan Nahimana in Burundi’s goal.
The Chayfs looked to be up to the task and their confidence was evident as Geal Bigirimana tried his luck from 35 yards, sending a ferocious free kick straight at Akpeyi.
Veteran John Mikel Obi had a chance to put Nigeria one up on 33 minutes but he headed wide while unmarked in the 6 yard box.
At the other end, Fredric Nsabiyumva headed a Saido Berahino free kick onto the cross bar before shooting over from the rebound.
With six minutes of the first half to play, Nigeria were forced into an early substitution as Chiozi Ewaziem replaced the injured Osinacki Ohale.
The first half ended goalless but the action at both ends was enough to feast on by revelers.
Both teams came back for the second half in the same fashion they played the first half but were living on half chances as they failed to create clear cut ones.
As the second half wore on, Nigeria asserted their authority but were still struggling to break down a spirited Burundi defence.
At the other end, Fiston Razak was causing issues for the Super Eagles as he kept on turning their defence inside and out.
However, it was Nigeria who would take the lead through substitute Odion Ighalo with the striker finishing off a swift move which saw him played in through on goal by Ola Aina back-heel pass.
Immediately after the goal, Akpeyi nearly gifted Burundi an equalizer as he fumbled a cross into the area but Fiston could not capitalize when the balk fell to him.
Inside the three added on minutes at the end of the game, Fiston found himself unmarked in the area but headed over.
It was Nigeria smiling at the end as they got their campaign off to a winning start while Burundi will be kicking themselves for not taking anything from the game.
Nigeria go top of Group B with three points and await the result from the Guinea vs Madagascar fixture later in the day.
How the two teams lined up
NIGERIA XI: Akpeyi; Ola Aina, Ekong, Omeruo, Shehu; Obi Mikel, Ndidi, Etebo; Chukwueze, Onuachu, Iwobi
BURUNDI XI: J.Nahimana; Ngando, Moussa, Frédéric, Bigirimana; Duhayindavyi, Mustafa, S.Nahimana, Fiston; Cedric, Berahino.
The other games on Saturday
-DR Congo 0-2 Uganda
-Guinea vs Madagascar
-Morocco vs Namibia @5:30pm
-Senegal vs Tanzania @8pm
-Algeria vs Kenya @11pm