Iwobi, Iheanacho score as Nigeria triumph

2016-10-10 07:41
Kelechi Iheanacho (Getty Images)

Johannesburg - Nigeria opened their 2018 World Cup group-phase qualifying campaign with a 2-1 victory in Zambia on Sunday thanks to goals from English Premier League duo Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho.

The 20-year-old strikers scored in the opening half before a capacity 40,000 crowd at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in central city Ndola that included President Edgar Lungu.

Zambia dominated the second half and veteran striker Collins Mbesuma set up a tense finish by halving the deficit 19 minutes from time.

But an equaliser eluded the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets), who are seeking a first World Cup appearance while the Super Eagles have already been to the finals five times.

The teams are in Group B which also contains three 2014 World Cup qualifiers in Algeria, Cameroon and Nigeria.

Iwobi of Arsenal pounced on a weak headed clearance to slam the ball past goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene from close range on 32 minutes.

Neat one-touch passing set Iheanacho of Manchester City free 10 minutes later and he rounded Mweene before calmly pushing the ball into the net.

A blunder from Nigeria defender Kenneth Omeruo allowed Mbesuma to score by firing past impressive goalkeeper Carl Ikeme from inside the box.

Algeria were surprisingly held 1-1 by Cameroon in Blida, a city 50 kilometres (32 miles) south-west of Algiers where the Desert Foxes have become accustomed to winning by wide margins.

El Arbi Hillel Soudani gave the hosts a perfect start by tapping the ball into the net on seven minutes after a corner.

But good teamwork allowed Benjamin Moukandjo to level midway through the opening half and the result leaves Algeria and Cameroon two points adrift of Nigeria.

Just a few hours after the Nigerians became the first away winners in the African group phase, Egypt matched the achievement by defeating Congo 2-1 in Brazzaville.

Ferebory Dore beat 43-year-old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary with a far-post header to give the home side a first-half lead.

Mohamed Salah from Italian Serie A outfit Roma headed the equaliser just before half-time, then set up the winner for Abdallah Saied close to the hour mark.

Egypt, whose last of two World Cup appearances was 26 years ago, top Group E with three points, Ghana and Uganda have one each and Congo none.

Tunisia share the Group A lead with the Democratic Republic of Congo on three points after second-half goals produced a 2-0 win over Guinea in Monastir.

Valencia defender Aymen Abdennour broke the deadlock on 58 minutes by nodding in a corner and Anis Ben Hatira came off the bench to score his first international goal.

Libya reacted to a 4-0 thrashing from DR Congo in Kinshasa by firing Spanish coach Javier Clemente a month before his contract was due to expire.


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