IGHALO BRACE HAULS NIGERIA BACK FROM THE BRINK
Nigeria came from behind to eliminate defending champions Cameroon from the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, with goals from Odion Ighalo and Alex Iwobi.
The Super Eagles were slight favourites over their perennial rivals coming into the encounter in Alexandria, and set an early, fervid tempo.
It was rewarded inside the opening 20 minutes as, following an Ahmed Musa free-kick, Kenneth Omeruo’s pass across the area was stabbed home by an unmarked Ighalo from the edge of the six-yard box.
That jolt woke Cameroon from their inactivity, and they slowly grew into the game as Nigeria failed to press home the advantage. Their reward come in the form of two goals in the space of three minutes to turn the game on its head.
First, 2017 AFCON MVP Christian Bassogog got the better of Chidozie Awaziem on the left, before bending in a great cross which was tapped home by Stephan Bahoken. Then, Yaya Banana’s long ball out from the back saw Bahoken beat Kenneth Omeruo in the air, and his flick was seized upon by Clinton N’Jie, who calmly sidefooted past Daniel Akpeyi.
Cameroon almost doubled their lead after the break, as a quick free-kick caught out the Nigeria defence. Bassogog’s low cross was deflected goalward by the sliding tackle of Aina, but Akpeyi was alert to bar the path to goal at the near post.
Having weathered the early pressure in the second half, Nigeria levelled. Awaziem’s flighted ball into the box was chested down by Ahmed Musa into the path of Ighalo. The Shanghai Shenhua man, just onside, swivelled and fired home past Andre Onana for 2-2.
Minutes later, the Super Eagles reclaimed the lead. Oghenekaro Etebo won the ball in midfield, and played in Ighalo. The forward then slipped in the onrushing Alex Iwobi, who opened up his body and slid the ball beyond Onana.
Ighalo would twice come close to completing his hat-trick, drawing two saves from Onana: first from a Samuel Chukwueze pass, and then from the Villarreal youngster’s corner-kick.
The comeback sees Nigeria advance to the Quarter-finals, where they will face South Africa in Cairo on Wednesday.