Nigeria v Egypt player ratings: Aina 8, Simon 8; Salah 6, Trezeguet 4

Iheanacho fires Super Eagles to victory in Africa Cup of Nations Group D opener

Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho struck in the first half to give Nigeria a deserved 1-0 win over Egypt in their Africa Cup of Nations Group D opener in Garoua.

Iheanacho fired the Super Eagles ahead when he drilled a half-volley into the top corner after 30 minutes.

Nigeria were close to doubling their lead early in the second half as Taiwo Awoniyi saw his close-range header pushed onto the crossbar by Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy, who also later saved from substitute Chidera Ejuke.

Egypt never really got out of first gear and failed to carve out many clear openings for Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, who was put through during the closing stages – but the Pharaohs captain could not find a telling finish.

NIGERIA

Maduka Okoye - 6, Had very little to do but looked comfortable with the ball at his feet. Stopped Mohamed Salah’s late effort with an outstretched leg.

Ola Aina - 8, Was persistent in his defensive work when required and blocked Mohamed Salah’s shot well. Did brilliantly to keep the ball in play and find Taiwo Awoniyi with a cross for his headed attempt, while an incredible burst forward presented an opportunity that Kelechi Iheanacho couldn’t take.

Kenneth Omeruo - 8, Was decisive whenever called upon defensively, including when he bailed out Wilfried Ndidi after a poor pass that could have got him in trouble. Was forced off through injury.

William Troost-Ekong - 7, Looked comfortable for large periods of the game, though he did play Salah onside for the Egyptian’s late chance. Also almost got himself into trouble with a poor touch but recovered quickly. Made some important tackles at times that Salah threatened.

Zaidu Sanusi - 5, Looked comfortable until Zizo came on, as Sanusi struggled to deal with the substitute at times. The left-back failed to cause any trouble with crosses from great positions.

Samuel Chukwueze - 6, Had flashes of quality and looked a bright spark, but struggled to translate that into clear opportunities.

Wilfried Ndidi - 7, Almost put Omeruo in trouble with a poor pass, but patrolled the midfield area with authority after that, helping to nullify any attempts. Also played some defence-splitting passes in the second half.

Joe Aribo - 7, Played a nice pass through for Moses Simon’s early chance, before getting his assist when he headed the ball down well for Kelechi Iheanacho’s goal. Worked well within Nigeria’s shape when defending.

Moses Simon - 8, Posed a constant threat throughout the first half and it was his cross into the box that led to Iheanacho’s opener. Egypt simply couldn’t deal with him, with the winger also causing problems at times after the break.

Taiwo Awoniyi - 6, Looked bright and linked the play well, but sent his effort straight into Mohamed El Shenawy’s arms when an opportunity came his way. Thought he’d scored when his header bounced off the underside of the crossbar.

Kelechi Iheanacho - 7, In by far the biggest moment of quality from the first half, Iheanacho executed a superb touch and finish to open the scoring. The striker then came agonisingly close to finding Awoniyi with a through ball, but a poor first touch let him down after superb work from Aina. Sent his shot wide from a half-chance.

SUB Umar Sadiq (Awoniyi, 72’) – N/R, Linked the play well, almost finding Iheanacho with a flicked header, before playing a nice pass to Chidera Ejuke.

SUB Chidera Ejuke (Chukwueke, 72’) – N/R, Hit his strike well but it was straight at El Shenawy from a tight angle, then made a brilliant run forward in the final moments before seeing his shot saved.

SUB Semi Ajayi (Omeruo, 79’) – N/R, Kept things tight at the back to ensure Nigeria secured a clean sheet and win.

SUB Kelechi Nwakali (Iheanacho, 80’) – N/R, Worked hard to ensure Nigeria saw out the win without getting much of a chance to get on the ball.

SUB Alex Iwobi (Simon, 91’) – N/R, Did well to deal with Salah’s cross towards the back post and kept things simple with the ball.

Egypt forward Mohamed Salah. AFP

EGYPT

Mohamed El Shenawy - 6, Had absolutely no chance of stopping Iheanacho’s strike, but did well to deny Awoniyi by tipping his header onto the crossbar. Was fortunate to get away with coming out for a corner and getting nowhere near the ball, then did well to deny Ejuke’s late shot.

Akram Tawfik – N/R, Injured himself within the first seven minutes while trying to make a tackle on Simon.

Ahmed Hegazy - 5, Might feel he should have got more on his headed clearance for Iheanacho’s goal. Most of his balls forward gave Egypt’s attackers no chance of controlling them while his dinked shot attempt floated over the crossbar. Showed good defensive awareness in the second half.

Mahmoud Hamdi - 6, Produced some great pieces of defending, notably cutting out Iheanacho’s through ball to Awoniyi. However, most of his long balls forward were completely aimless – especially in the first half.

Ahmed El Fotouh - 6, Did well to reach Simon’s cross ahead of Chukwueze at the back post. Showed a bit more purpose with forward balls than his fellow defenders, but they were still hit and miss.

Hamdi Fathi - 6, Made a good tackle to stop a Nigerian burst through the middle and worked hard but struggled to make much happen with the ball.

Mohamed Elneny - 6, Moved the ball nicely and did a good defensive job, but failed to capitalise when there was the opportunity to make a burst forward.

Mostafa Mohamed - 4, He was anonymous for most of his time on the pitch, even if that was partly down to a lack of quality service.

Trezeguet - 4, Could have done more to stop Simon’s cross for the opener. Worked hard but never really got into the game in an attacking sense.

Omar Marmoush - 5, Showed tiny flashes of quality, such as a nutmeg on the left flank, but didn’t see enough of the ball to make a real impact on the game.

Mohamed Salah - 6, Hardly saw any of the ball until the latter stages and couldn’t find Trezeguet with his through ball when a rare half-chance arrived to cut Nigeria open before then. Saw the shot from his best chance blocked by Aina, then couldn’t quite get past Okoye after being played in behind.

SUB Mohamed Abdelmonem (Tawfik, 10’) - 4, Couldn’t contain Simon at all, with the ball being played behind him for the Nigerian winger’s early chance, while the substitute was nowhere to be seen when he delivered the cross for the opener.

SUB Ayman Ashraf (El Fotouh, HT) - 6, Went into a rash tackle and was easily beaten by Chukwueze within minutes of his introduction, though he did well to clear a Simon cross to the back post and settled defensively after that.

SUB Zizo (Trezeguey, 58’) - 7, Immediately looked to make things happen, though he saw a cross cleared after good work to get away from Simon. Continued to be one of Egypt’s brightest players. getting a nice dinked cross to Salah.

SUB Ramadan Sobhi (Mohamed, 58’) - 5, Linked up well with Salah at times but struggled to get the better of Aina.

SUB Sherif (Hamdi, 90’) – N/R, Didn’t have enough time to really make an impact as Egypt chased an equaliser.

Updated: January 12th 2022, 3:09 AM