Osimhen scores as Nigeria held by Equatorial Guinea

Ahram Online , Sunday 14 Jan 2024

African Player of the Year Victor Osimhen scored for Nigeria as they disappointed in a 1-1 Africa Cup of Nations Group A draw with Equatorial Guinea in Abidjan on Sunday.

Nigeria s
Nigeria s defender #6 Semi Ajayi fights for the ball with Equatorial Guinea s forward #10 Emilio Nsue during the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 group A football match between Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Ebimpe, Abidjan, on January 14, 2024. Photo: AFP


Osimhen leveled in the first half almost immediately after Iban Edu had opened the scoring in a match that ended with both teams on one point, two fewer than leaders and hosts Ivory Coast.

The two-yearly African football showpiece kicked off on Saturday with Ivory Coast beating Guinea-Bissau 2-0 in the same stadium.

Nigeria, 46 places higher than Equatorial Guinea in the world rankings, had been expected to begin their campaign for a fourth African title with a victory.

Given so much of the pre-match attention was on Osimhen, it was fitting that the star who once sold newspapers on the bustling Lagos streets to eke out a living, was first to threaten.

Offered a half chance outside the box in the fifth minute, the Napoli forward produced an uncharacteristic finish as he blazed over the crossbar.

Nigeria dominated the early possession and should have taken the lead 10 minutes into a match that attracted a small crowd to the 60,000-seat Ebimpe Olympic Stadium.

A low cross from the right eluded everyone except Super Eagle Zaidu Sanusi at the far post, but his shot was too high and wide.

As the half progressed the Equatoguineans came more into the game and went ahead on 36 minutes through a midfielder whose name differs depending where he plays.

Ivan Salvador Edu is known as Ivan Salvador in Spain, where he was born, but in Africa he is Iban Edu, the name on his shirt in this match.

Edu took a pass just inside the box from Jose Machin and used his left foot to place the ball into the corner of the net past stationery goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali.

Nigeria reacted swiftly with Osimhen levelling just two minutes later in a stadium on the outskirts of the Ivorian economic capital.

The equaliser was an "Italian" affair as Ademola Lookman of Atalanta crossed and Osimhen from the defending Serie A champions nodded into the net at the far post.

As the second half unfolded, Equatoguinean Jesus Owono was much the busier goalkeeper and used his feet several times to foil a Nigerian team in the ascendancy.

Nigeria suffered a blow midway through the half when livewire midfielder Alhassan Yusuf -- a late addition to the squad in place of injured Wilfred Ndidi -- retired injured.

Osimhen wasted a great chance to put his country ahead on 76 minutes as, one-on-one with Ewono, he fired past the goalkeeper but also wide of the goal.

In the second round of Group A matches on Thursday, Equatorial Guinea meet Guinea-Bissau before the potential highlight of the mini-league pits Ivory Coast against Nigeria.

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