World Cup qualifier: Iheanacho double fires Eagles to top of Group C – Punch Newspapers

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The Super Eagles kicked off their Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign on a bright note with a  2-0 win over Liberia at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos on Friday, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.

A first half brace from Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho secured a dominant win for the three-time African champions.

The victory also sees the Eagles move to the top of Group C after match-day one fixtures, following Cape Verde’s 1-1 draw with Central Africa Republic on Wednesday.

The Eagles lead Group C standings with three points and are followed by Cape Verde and Central African Republic on one point apiece, while Liberia occupy bottom spot.

The Eagles dominated the encounter but were wasteful in attack against the Liberians, who offered very little resistance.

Liberia sat back in defence in the opening minutes and the rain-soaked pitch appeared at a time to slow down the rampant attack of the Nigerians.

Glasgow Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo, Alex Iwobi, Napoli striker Victor Osimhen and Moses Simon were the biggest culprits.

Iheanacho scored the opener in the 22nd minute when he drilled a low shot from outside the box, which sneaked past Liberia goalkeeper Ashley Williams.

The goal ended his seven-game goal drought for the Eagles.

He doubled his team’s lead on 45 minutes after he controlled a high ball right inside the six-yard box, before he turned sharply to fire past Williams. The striker took his tally to 11 in 23 games for the Eagles.

In the second half, the Eagles again created several chances – in the 47th minute, Iheanacho was close to completing his hat-trick but his free header from inside the box missed target.

Captain Ahmed Musa replaced Man-of-The-Match Iheanacho five minutes from time for his 99th international cap.

The Lone Star pushed forward in the closing minutes as they gained confidence, but it didn’t change the score line.

The Eagles next battle Cape Verde on Tuesday after Liberia must have played Central African Republic 24 hours earlier.

EAGLES RATINGS:

Nigeria posted an impressive performance beating Liberia 2-0 in Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Lagos. Gernot Rohr’s men posed an attacking threat on a perfect evening against the Lone Star, with a brace from Kelechi Iheanacho sealing the Group C World Cup qualifying opening campaign. PUNCH Sports Extra’s Johnny Edward rates the performances of the Eagles’ starting XI:

MADUKA OKOYE – The Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper was virtually a spectator in the encounter as his teammates controlled proceedings from start to finish. He made only two saves during the game.

Rating: 6

LEON BALOGUN – The Glasgow Rangers defender was relatively untroubled and looked comfortable playing alongside vice-captain Troost-Ekong.

Rating: 7

WILLIAM TROOST-EKONG – Hardly broke a sweat as the Eagles were barely threatened in defence. He was also a calming influence to the backline Rating: 7

OLA AINA – The Torino wing-back excelled at right-back again for the Eagles. His defence-splitting pass in the 31st minute should have been dispatched by Moses Simon.

Rating: 5

JAMILU COLLINS – Posted an eye-catching performance at left-back in the absence of Zaidu Sanusi, though his delivery from wide was not too impressive.

Rating: 6

WILFRED NDIDI – Patrolled the midfielder area with confidence and shielded the Eagles defence well. He also broke attacking plays of the Liberians severally.

Rating: 6

JOE ARIBO – Played alongside Ndidi in the central midfield position and barely influenced the game in that position. He was guilty of a miss in the 41st minute.

Rating: 5

ALEX IWOBI  – Started on the right flank of the Eagles attack and failed to sparkle as he was dealt some rough treatment by the visitors. He came to life in the when he switched to the left wing, though.

Rating: 6

KELECHI IHEANACHO – His quality on the ball was there for all to see again. He scored twice and was a constant threat for the Eagles in attack before he was replaced for Ahmed Musa. He was Eagles best on the day.

Rating: 8

MOSES SIMON – Relatively impressed on the left flank and was guilty of missing Nigeria’s first goal scoring chance. He also couldn’t link Osimhen with his crosses.

Rating: 5

VICTOR OSIMHEN – The Napoli striker was far from his clinical best and was largely isolated in the 70 minutes he featured. He was also guilty of missing a sitter in the 38th minute and barely had a real chance on goal.

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