Nigeria had to fight back with goals from Victor Osimhen and Alex Iwobi to ensure a good start to their 2023 African Cup of Nations Qualifiers with a 2-1 victory against Sierra Leone.
The Super Eagles kicked off their journey to Ivory Coast 2023 when they welcomed the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone at the Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja.
The last time the Leone stars came visiting, they picked up a dramatic 4-4 draw in Benin-City. However, under the new tutelage of new boss Jose Peseiro, Nigeria looked to redeem themselves in their first competitive game since the World Cup disappointment against Ghana. Albeit they had to do it without fans in the stadium.
The three-time African champions looked the better side from the start, but they were thrown an early sucker punch after some piece of skill from Musa Noah Kamara. The 20-year-old found his teammate Jonathan Morsay who promptly placed a brilliant finish behind Francis Uzoho to put Sierra Leone ahead.
Nigeria looked shaky a few minutes after that, and it took Uzoho’s fingertip save to ensure that the West African giants did not concede a second.
However, Nigeria reorganized themselves, and their quality showed as they responded in the 16th minute through Alex Iwobi. The Everton man showed great link up with Moses Simon to restore parity.
Nigeria kept up with the pressure but the Leone Stars kept a sturdy front. Nonetheless, they could not keep that sturdiness long enough, as Osimhen showed great awareness, spirit, and calm to latch onto a bubbling ball in the box to finish from close range, giving the Super Eagles the lead for the first time in the game.
The second half was all Nigeria as the three-time African champions bombarded the Sierra Leoneans with attack after attack. If not for the brilliance of Mohamed Kamara in the Sierra Leone goal, the Super Eagles would have feasted on the Leone stars.
The Nigerians held on in the closing minutes despite a late onslaught to see out the 2-1 victory, Peseiro’s first as Nigeria’s coach.