Super Eagles and Changchun Yatai forward, Odion Jude Ighalo, stole the show on Saturday when Nigeria reclaimed second spot in Group E of the ongoing AFCON 2019 qualifiers, scoring three in their 4-0 bashing of Libya in Uyo, AOIFootball.com reports.
The China-based striker opened the scoring for Nigeria just after three minutes when he stepped up to convert from the penalty spot to send the jam-packed fans at the Nest of Champions into a frenzy.
The visitors almost drew level few minutes later when lanky striker, Anis Mohammed headed a pinpoint cross towards goal, with Francis Uzoho producing an amazing reflex save to preserve their early lead.
Nigeria was however dealt a bitter blow when defender Abdullahi Shehu succumbed to what looked like a thigh injury in the first half with Torino’s Olaoluwa Aina replacing him.
Debutant Jamilu Collins thought he had doubled the Eagles’ advantage against the run of play after a brilliant overlapping run down the left flank but his chipped effort after Iwobi sliced the ball through to him came back off the crossbar. Nigeria went into the break one goal up.
Eight minutes into the second half, the Eagles doubled their lead when the impressive Alex Iwobi played Ighalo clean on goal before the striker kept his composure to dribble past the goalkeeper to bag his second of the evening.
Ighalo then got his first national team hat-trick after the hour mark when a quick cross from Musa took a stroke of fortune as defender Mohammed Moner lost his footing, allowing Ighalo to poke home from five yards after missing his first attempt.
The striker was then substituted with a quarter of an hour left to a rousing ovation from both fans and his colleagues, with Isaac Success coming on for his competitive debut.
Success almost made an instant impact when he sent another substitute Henry Onyekuru clean through on goal in the 82nd minute but the Galatasaray man-made one touch extra as the opportunity went begging.
Kalu then added the icing on Nigeria’s glossy cake on the dot of ninety minutes when Onyekuru who looked to have spurned another opportunity to score but passed back for the winger at the edge of the box. Kalu took a touch to set the ball for his sweet right before curling to the far post beyond the reach of Wuheeshi.
Nigeria now moves to second place in Group E behind South Africa who thrashed Seychelles 6-0 earlier on Saturday.
The Eagles will now head to Sfax, Tunisia on Tuesday, knowing that the onus is now on Gernot Rohr’s men to consolidate and lead the group.
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