Three time champions Nigeria opened their TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2021 campaign with a spirited 1-0 victory over record champions Egypt on Tuesday.
The Super Eagles produced one of their best performances in recent months to see off the Pharaohs in Group D. Kelechi Iheanacho scored the all important goal on the half hour mark to give interim boss Augustine Eguavoen a winning start.
Billed as the match of the group the two sides presented their star players as they search for a winning start to the 33rd edition of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations.
The Super Eagles dominated possession limiting Egypt to just one shot in the opening hour while forcing goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy into several saves.
The Al Ahly keeper denied Chidera Ejuke twice before pushing Taiwo Awoniyi's header against the frame of his goal as the 2013 champions push for the goal.
FC Nantes winger Simon Moses was one of Nigeria's best players on the pitch with his speed and agility causing a lot of problems for the Egyptians.
Akram Elhagrasi suffered an early injury following his battle with the enterprising Moses forcing him off after 11 minutes.
Moses came close for the Super Eagles on 26 minutes when his run into the Pharos area saw his flash a shot at the side netting.
Kelechi Iheanacho broke the deadlock with a fierce half volley beyond El Shenawy on 30 minutes to give the Nigerians a deserved victory over the flat Pharos who struggled to create any meaningful opportunity.
Egypt captain Mohamed Salah was played through by Ahmed Sayed but the former African Player of the Year miscued his effort with Nigeria goalkeeper Okoye making the save.
Nigeria's victory sends them to the top of the group ahead of Guinea Bissau taking on Sudan in the second match of the Group D.
What they said
Kelechi Iheanacho (Man of the Match)
“It was a challenge for me, and we put in a lot of effort and got the three points. We are happy with that. We have to do more in the next two matches and hopefully we can win both."
Augustin Eguavoen (Coach, Nigeria)
"I congratulate the players for the performance and victory. Egypt respected us but we played our way. We gave everything during the match, and we must play every game as if it were a final. We won the first match, and we will see what we do in the next."
Carlos Queiroz (Egypt coach)
"The performance in the first half was very poor and this is the truth, we were not on the field. We started playing in the second half and there was no reason for this failure and loss against Nigeria. We lost this match but there are 6 points we must get against Sudan and Guinea Bissau to qualify.”