NIGERIA became the first team to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations knockout phase as Kenneth Omeruo’s goal earned a 1-0 win over Guinea in Group B.
In a largely uneventful contest in
Alexandria, Nigeria made the breakthrough when Omeruo headed in from Moses
Simon’s 73rd-minute corner.
Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita returned to
fitness to make his first start for either club or country since May 1, but
could not inspire Guinea, who are in real danger of an early exit.
Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone had been the
star performer with two excellent saves from a pair of Alex Iwobi efforts, but
his display proved fruitless as Omeruo’s header ended Nigeria’s four-match
winless streak against the Syli Nationale.
After coming on as a substitute in Guinea’s
draw with Madagascar, Keita almost marked his first start in eight weeks with
an assist early on, but Sory Kaba failed to take the midfielder’s through-ball
into his path.
Francois Kamano sent a free-kick just wide
as Guinea kept up the pressure, though Nigeria would have had the lead before
half-time had Kone not got down to Iwobi’s effort.
Kone came to Guinea’s rescue once more just
after the hour, doing well to prevent another Iwobi strike dipping in.
Keita’s underwhelming return came to an end
in the 71st minute when he was replaced by Lass Bangoura, and Guinea’s
resistance was broken moments later – Omeruo glancing a header into the far
corner after connecting with Simon’s delivery.
Guinea rallied late on, though Nigeria had little trouble in holding out for a win which guarantees their place in the last 16 with a game to spare. – beinsports.com
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