NEW Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr has got off to a winning start after the team beat Tanzania 1-0 in his first match in charge during a meaningless African Cup of Nations qualifier at the Uyo Stadium yesterday.
Just a formality as Nigeria can no longer qualify for the tournament taking place next year, the match afforded Mr Rohr the opportunity to look at a few players as he plans his 2018 World Cup qualification campaign. Nigeria dominated play throughout the game but squandered numerous chances until Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho finally broke the deadlock in the 78th minute.
Mr Rohr had opted for an attacking team with the England-based quartet of Iheanacho, Odion Ighalo, Ahmed Musa and Victor Moses named in the starting line-up. Two minutes after kick-off, Ighalo ballooned Iheanacho’s pass over the top under a close challenge in the box in what was to become a feature of the game.
Nigeria continued mounting pressure during the opening spell as Moses also had an attempt at goal but the Chelsea man’s free kick from 22 yards whizzed past the top right-hand corner of Aishi Manula in goal for Tanzania. Despite overwhelming possession during which Tanzania hardly had a sniff of the ball, the Eagles wasted chance after chance.
Later on in the half, captain Mikel Obi picked out Musa in Tanzania’s penalty area but the Leicester winger kicked fresh air and had a second attempt at goal which he could only toe-poke straight at Manula. Midway into the first half, Iheanacho struck with precision rather than power with his left foot but Manula produced a good save to keep his team in the game.
Moses then came close to scoring twice but fluffed the chances. On the stroke of half time, Elderson Echiejile bombed forward and combined with Moses but gain, the Chelsea man fired his effort over the top.
Following the restart, Nigeria continued to press with Tanzania waiting for counter-attacks that never came or were broken down by the Super Eagles defence of Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Musa Mohammed and Echiejile. On the hour, Musa’s low cross was met in the box by Mikel but again Manula saved point blank and within seconds, Manula denied Mikel again.
However, Manula could not deny Iheanacho with 12 minutes to go. The Manchester City striker picked up a short corner, ran into space to set himself up on his left foot before striking fiercely from the edge of the box to see the ball hit the underside of the crossbar to settle in the net for the winner.