Iheanacho scores twice as Super Eagles defeat Liberia
Nigeria beat Liberia 2-0 in their first match of the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers in Lagos on Friday, thanks to a brace from Kelechi Iheanacho.
Iheanacho’s goal at the Teslim Balogun Stadium brought his international score to 11 goals, putting him close to Jay-Jay Okocha and Julius Aghahowa’s 14-goal tally for Nigeria.
The Super Eagles got out to a better start than their opponents, with more shots on goal and more possession, which paid off with two goals in the first 45 minutes.
Joe Aribo nearly opened the deadlock in the first 20 minutes after some excellent teamwork, but his effort lacked the force to trouble goalkeeper Ashley Williams.
The hosts continued to press for an early goal, which they scored in the 23rd minute when Iheanacho hammered a strike past Williams after Alex Iwobi’s corner kick.
Liberia soon answered with a free-kick from captain Allen Njie, which Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper Maduka Okoye expertly saved. The Lone Star captain was subsequently given the game’s first yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Iheanacho.
On the stroke of half-time, Iwobi headed down a long throw-in from Jamilu Collins for the Leicester City player, who placed the ball past the hapless Williams to double the lead.
Iheanacho had a chance to score his hat-trick just after the restart, but his header went wide of the target.
Nigeria’s domination continued, and shortly before the hour mark, they had another chance to expand their advantage after a great series of manoeuvres in the penalty area from Ndidi, but Iwobi’s last ball was not converted.
Victor Osimhen kept pushing for his goal, and his header off Moses Simon’s corner-kick came close to finding the target, but goalkeeper Williams parried it away.
The Napoli talisman was replaced by Paul Onuachu in the 78th minute, and Bordeaux winger Samuel Kalu replaced Simon in the 79th minute.
Nigeria made another double substitute a few minutes later, with captain Ahmed Musa and Abdullahi Shehu replacing Iheanacho and Iwobi, respectively.
Watford’s Oghenekaro Etebo came on at full-time to replace Aribo.
Iheanacho was named Man of the Match, while Iwobi was named Most Valuable Player, earning him another one million naira.
Following a 1-1 draw between Cape Verde and the Central African Republic on Wednesday, Nigeria climbed to the top of Group C with three points.
The three-time African champions will travel to Vape Verde on September 7 for their second group match, while Liberia will face Central African Republic on Monday.