Super Eagles avert upset against National Thunder
By Femi Atolagbe
Nigeria had to battle back from behind to earn a 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea in their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations opener at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium on Sunday.
The Super Eagles trail Group A leaders Ivory Coast by two points in third place after the AFCON hosts kicked off the continental showpiece with a 2-0 victory over Guinea-Bissau on Saturday, January 13. The National Thunder are second in the group and will be looking to inflict back-to-back defeats on Djurtus when they meet next up.
Nigeria went on the attack from the get-go and Alex Iwobi tested Jesus Owono with a strike from range in the opening minute before Victor Osimhen wasted a good chance when he steered a header just wide of the left post from Ola Aina’s cross in the 29th minute.
However, Equatorial Guinea took the lead against the run of play on 36 minutes as Iban Salvador slotted past Stanley Nwabali from inside the box after being picked out by Jose Machin.
Their joy was short-lived though, as the West Africans hit back just two minutes later through Osimhen, who tucked his header into the back of the net from Ademola Lookman’s cross.
Moses Simon almost put Nigeria ahead on the stroke of halftime, but Owono pulled off a sharp save to deny him at the near post after being in by Osimhen.
Nigeria continued to carve out opportunities in the second half, with Zaidu Sanusi firing straight at Owono from inside the 18-yard area on 54 minutes before Osimhen also produced a routine save out of the keeper from inside the box on the left moments later.
Aina wasn’t able to beat Owono either after being played in on the right by Lookman in the 66th minute, while Osimhen spurned a glorious chance 10 minutes later when he shot wide from inside the box, having been sent through on goal by Iwobi.
The National Thunder managed to hold on for a precious point in the end and they are next in action against Guinea-Bissau on January 18, with the Super Eagles taking on host nation Ivory Coast later that same evening.