Nigeria came from behind to defeat Sierra Leone 2-1 on matchday one of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja today, Thursday, June 8th.
Goals from Alex Iwobi and Victor Osimhen helped Nigeria overturn Jonathan Morsay’s 11th-minute opener for the Leone Stars.
Below are the major takeaways from the thrilling encounter.
A motivated Moses Simon is unstoppable
The Nantes forward was in his element in the first half of the clash against the Leone Stars, providing the assists to both of Nigeria’s goals.
It is the first time Simon has impacted the result of a Super Eagles match since his brilliant displays at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
Hopefully, the disappointment of the Afcon has waned, and the winger can become even more crucial for the national team.
Troost-Ekong needs some bench time
The mistakes are coming in thick and fast for William Troost-Ekong.
The Watford defender scored an own goal that led to Nigeria’s loss against Mexico only last month. And he was not up to the required level against Sierra Leone.
Slow and often caught out of position, Troost-Ekong suffered at the hands of the quick Leone Stars attackers. And he was the one beaten by Kamara, who then sent in the cross that Morsay gratefully headed in for the opening goal.
Peseiro may need to keep Troost-Ekong on the bench until he regains his mojo, with Leon Balogun and Kenneth Omeruo viable options.
Victor Osimhen is hot on Kanu, Okocha, and Ighalo’s heels
Osimhen’s predatory finish minutes before the interval was all Nigeria needed to secure their tenth win over Sierra Leone.
That goal was Osimhen’s 11th strike in 21 appearances for the three-time African champions, and it takes him above Victor Moses and Peter Osaze Odemwingie on Nigeria’s all-time goalscorer chart.
The Napoli forward is now one goal short of Nwankwo Kanu’s haul of 12 goals for the Super Eagles, two short of Amokachi’s 13, three behind Austin Jay-Jay Okocha (14) and five behind Odion Ighalo (16).
Rashidi Yekini’s 37-goal haul is still miles away from Osimhen’s reach, but the youngster’s goal ratio of 0.52 is only bettered by two Nigerian strikers in history – Yekini (0.63) and Sunday Oyarekhua (0.60).
Super Eagles’ Alex Iwobi breaks two-year scoring duck
Iwobi had not scored for the Super Eagles in two years, but the versatile Everton winger ended that miserable run with the equaliser against Sierra Leone in Abuja.
Incidentally, Iwobi’s last goals for Nigeria came against the same opponents in the 4-4 draw at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin in November 2020.
The 26-year-old attacker now has ten goals in 51 games for the Eagles.
The pitch of the Abuja National Stadium is not Super Eagles’ quality
While the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja is a magnificent masterpiece, the sorry nature of its pitch beggars belief.
The Super Eagles struggled to string multiple passes together and found trouble maintaining their organisation and pressure on and off the ball.
The NFF can do better with that Abuja pitch or get a better home for the national team.
Chukwueze must improve in the final third
Samuel Chukwueze’s talent is undeniable, and against the Leone Stars, his trickery and dribbling skills effortlessly helped him get past his opponents with little fuss.
But the quality of the Villarreal winger’s final ball is still suspect. Ola Aina and Calvin Bassey delivered crosses that created chances for Osimhen and Simon, but none of Chukwueze’s delivery managed to find their intended target.
The youngster had the chance to make it 3-1 for the Eagles midway through the second half, but he fluffed it with the goalkeeper and the goalposts at his mercy. His development is far from complete, but it would be pleasing to see him blossom under Jose Peseiro.