Leicester City forward, Kelechi Iheanacho, on Friday night helped the Super Eagles of Nigeria to kick off their World Cup qualifying campaign on a bright note against the Lone Stars of Liberia at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos.
Iheanacho’s goals were scored in the 22nd and 45th.
Though ranked more than 100 places below Nigeria in the monthly FIFA Rankings, the Liberians started the game on a confident note; matching everything thrown at them by the Super Eagles.
But as the game progressed, the Super Eagles began to make in-roads for an opening goal.
Ola Aina attempted a shot from range in the 10th minute, but the attempt by the Torino defender went off target.
The Super Eagles almost took the lead moments after, but Joe Aribo failed to hit the target after he was nicely set up by Alex Iwobi.
The opening goal finally came for Nigeria in the 22nd minute when Iheanacho drilled a low shot past the Liberia goalkeeper following an assist from Iwobi.
Aribo could have doubled Nigeria’s lead afterwards but his shot from close range was fiercely blocked by a Liberia defender.
Just before the halftime whistle was sounded, Iheanacho scored his second of the game.
‘Senior man,’ as he is fondly called, scored with a cool finish as he controlled a high ball right inside the six-yard box before he turned sharply to fire past goalkeeper Ashley Williams.
The Super Eagles continued with the pressure after the break but they could not add to their tally.
Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr made double substitutions in the 77th minute with Paul Onuachu and Samuel Kalu replacing Osimhen and Moses Simon.
Captain Ahmed Musa and Shehu Abdullahi were also introduced in place of Iheanacho and Iwobi respectively.
Oghenekaro Etebo also took the place of Aribo late on in the game but none could change the final outcome.
While the players from the United Kingdom will fly back to base after Friday’s tie, the rest will be travelling to the island of Mindelo on Sunday night for Tuesday’s clash with the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde in a Day 2 encounter.
Before this latest game, in 17 previous clashes with Liberia’s Lone Star, the Super Eagles had won 10 matches, drawing three and losing four.
Nigeria is seeking a seventh appearance at the World Cup having featured in all but one of the editions since making a debut appearance at the 1994 edition in the United States.
The two first-half goals by Iheanacho saw the Super Eagles soaring to the top of their qualifying group that includes Cape Verde and the Central Africa Republic.