Sunday, 23 June 2019 05:00

Super Eagles struggle to defeat Burundi in 2019 Afcon opener

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Super Eagles of Nigeria started their campaign at Africa Cup of Nations on a winning note as they pipped debutants Burundi 1-0 on Saturday.

While many expected a shelling of Burundi, it was the solitary strike from Odion Ighalo that saved the day for Super Eagles.

Gernot Rohr’s side are 89 places above Burundi in FIFA’s world rankings.

But the Eagles struggled for long periods in their Group B opener at Alexandria Stadium but sealed all three points in the 77th minute.

Odion Ighalo, introduced for Paul Onuachu just four minutes earlier, latched onto Ola Aina’s wonderful back-heeled pass and coolly whipped the ball past Jonathan Nahimana.

Nigeria started on the back foot and could have fallen behind after 14 minutes but Daniel Akpeyi pawed away Cedric Amissi’s powerful volley.

At the other end, Samuel Chukwueze blazed over from Alex Iwobi’s pull-back shortly before the half-hour mark, while an unmarked John Obi Mikel headed wide from six yards soon after.

Burundi ended the half strongly, with only a fingertip save from Akpeyi keeping out Frederic Nsabiyumva’s looping header.

Kenneth Omeruo headed over shortly after the restart for Super Eagles before Akpeyi pushed Fiston Abdul Razak’s long-range drive around the post.

The stage was then set for Ighalo, the Shanghai Shenhua forward clinically lifting past Nahimana and in off the right-hand post to get his side up and running in the tournament.

Nigeria will hope to put in a vastly improved performance against Guinea on Wednesday, while Burundi face Madagascar a day later.

Super Eagles are hoping for a fourth title in Egypt.