By Timileyin Omilana
Odion Ighalo produced an outstanding performance to put the Super Eagles atop the Group B and on a path of qualification to the second round.
Gernot Rohr’s men struck in the second half to defeat Burundi 1-0 at the Alexandria Stadium.
Here are the five things we learned from the game.
Ighalo saves the day
Another day to prove to his critics wrong. Ighalo, the game changer, scored a brilliant goal less than five minutes after he was introduced into the game.
Ighalo’s goal was as exquisite as it was a sheer delight, a beautiful moment. His odds on to start the match and perhaps get a goal in the second game against Guinea that could confirm the Super Eagles qualification has improved.
Ola Aina stars at left back
Despite playing out of his natural position, the 22-year-old Torino player got all the stars for his superb defensive and offensive positions throughout the match. Aina supplies a no-look back-heel pass to give Ighalo a clear chance to put Nigeria in atop Group B. For me, he deserves the Man of Match.
Wrong midfield orientation
Playing Mikel Obi in the hole reduced his contributions in the game and further curtailed the fluidity of the midfielders and the final third.
Mikel got too tired and had to give way to Alex Iwobi to play the free role which brought life to the midfield with great efforts from Ahmed Musa.
However, Ndidi, Iwobi and Etebo were more coordinated and the synergy between them was good, especially in the final period of the game.
The three players worked together to control the pace of the game, though, they weren’t as fast as many fans would have loved to see.
Lively Chukwueze shines on AFCON debut
Debutant Samuel Chukwueze was exceptional in his first AFCON game.
After several doubts of him having the confidence to play on AFCON big stage, it’s fair to say he didn’t disappoint – making a catalogue of dangerous runs with the ball as Super Eagles were a constant threat from the left wing. However, he needs to work more with his teammates.
Gael Bigirimana was enough to give Nigeria midfielders some worries. His created chances and as well snapped into tackles. He was the show for the Burundi side rather than their most acclaimed Saido Berahino who has failed to lived up to expectations