Nigeria required a 77th-minute goal from substitute and striker Odion Ighalo to seal a narrow 1-0 win over a resilient Burundi side. The Burundian national team was playing their first-ever match at the Africa Cup of Nations, and they put up a good performance.
It was an entertaining game, which saw both teams have equal chances. Burundi was brave and caused a lot of worry for the Super Eagles in the first half.
After a couple of missed chances by Nigeria in the early parts of the second half, Ighalo was set free by Ola Aina’s smart flicked pass. Odion Ighalo scored by side-footing the ball past Burundi goalkeeper Jonathan Nahimana in the 77th minute, barely four minutes after coming on in the opening Group B match.
Here are five things we learned from Nigeria vs. Burundi.
1. Daniel Akpeyi is too jittery
There’s no doubt that Daniel Akpati is a good goalkeeper, he made a stunning save to deny Burundi early in the first half. However, he was so nervous and indecisive. His goalkeeping errors almost led to the team conceding a few times.
2. Burundi are no minnows
Although it might have been their first time playing at the African Cup of Nations, Burundi showed that they are worthy participants.
It is worthy to note that Burundi were unbeaten in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers. The team gave the Super Eagles a tough time, and if not for their poor decision making when attacking, they would have scored.
3. Ighalo has redeemed himself
After a horrendous miss at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Ighalo was criticized by Nigerian fans. He did well by scoring six crucial goals that qualified Nigeria to the 2019 AFCON. However, this his goal against Burundi has endeared him back to the hearts of Nigerian fans.
4. Alex Iwobi is better in the Number 10 role
John Mikel Obi started the game as the number 10 for the Super Eagles. He was culpable for many missed opportunities in the first half of the game. When he was replaced, and Alex Iwobi shifted to the central role, the team were more fluid in attack.
5. Ola Aina is the man of the match
Many will argue that Wilfred Ndidi, Troost-Ekong or Odion Ighalo was their man-of-the-match. However, for me and a plethora of other passionate fans, Ola Aina was the true star player.
He was flawless in defense and exceptional in the attack.
Super Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr will have a lot of work and tinkering to do, before their next game against Guinea. We expect a few changes, especially in the attack.