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World Cup qualifiers: Nigeria beat Zambia goals from Iwobi, Iheanacho
Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho both scored in the first half to see the Super Eagles win 2-1 away to the Chipolopolo of Zambia in World Cup qualifying.
The win was Nigeria’s first-ever away win over Zambia and the Chipolopolo’s first loss at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola. Iwobi handed the Eagles the lead after 32 minutes in Ndola, before Iheanacho made it two shortly before the break to hand Nigeria a comfortable lead at half-time.
Zambia created a number of chances to pull one back and Collins Mbesuma eventually reduced the deficit with 19 minutes left on the clock, but they were unable to level the scoring as the visitors emerged victorious in the Group B opener.
Both sides threatened in the opening stages, but Nigeria went a goal up just past the half-hour mark when Chama dealt poorly with a long throw-in from Onyinye Ndidi. He headed straight at Iwobi and the Arsenal youngster volleyed past goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, who managed to get a hand to the ball but could not prevent it from crossing the line. Rainford Kalaba should perhaps have levelled the scoring following a fine cross from the right from Tembo, but shot stopper Carl Ikeme pulled off a superb save to keep out the Zambia forward’s powerful header.
Zambia were made to pay three minutes before half-time when Iheanacho doubled Nigeria’s lead after a fine attack. Brown Ideye set up the Manchester City striker inside the area and he rounded Mweene before evading a Zambian defender’s late challenge before tapping home from close range. John Obi Mikel nearly made it three after the break with a spectacular volley from the edge of the area, with Mweene only just managing to tip it over his crossbar.
At the other end, Kalaba continued to cause the Nigeria defence all kinds of trouble and he came close to pulling one back after some unconvincing defending from Ndidi, only for Ikeme to come to the rescue once more for the away side. Zambia would get the goal they deserved when Mbesuma made the most of a Kenneth Omeruo howler, firing a low shot past Ikeme on the turn.
There would not be an equaliser, though, as Nigeria held firm to kick off their campaign with an important away win. It meant Franco-German Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr has won his two matches in charge of Nigeria since his appointment in August.
NFF President Amaju Pinnick said: “We commend the efforts of the players and the technical crew, and we thank the Honourable Minister of Sports for his words of encouragement before the match. We are happy with the three points but it is a marathon, not a sprint.
“We still have five matches to play. We will take it one match at a time. Next stop is ‘Operation Beat Algeria.’”
The Eagles next play Algeria in Uyo on November 12, 2016.
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