By Stanley David
Odion Ighalo got a brace on Saturday against Cameroon to help the Super Eagles edge out the defending champions, 3-2 in the Africa Cup of Nations Round of 16.
both sides had failed to impress before that game in their three group matches but put up a show that saw five goals scored between them in Alexandria.
Super Eagles boss Gernot Rohr made five changes to the side that suffered a shocking 2-0 defeat to Madagascar on June 30 with Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi and Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi among the notable returnees.
Clearance Seedorf on the opposite end recalled Paris St Germain’s forward Eric Choupo Moting in three changes to the side that drew blank in their previous outing against Benin Republic.
The game started rather slowly with both teams very sloppy in possession but by the time the first shot on target of the game arrived in the 19th minute, it was advantage Nigeria as Odion Ighalo’s deflected strike managed to find the net.
The Indomitable Lions looked lost and there was little on their side to suggest the goal will awaken them. However in a crazy three minutes of some poor defending and a pretty cool finishing the holders were in front through Stephane Bahoken and Clinton Njie goals in the 40th and 43rd minutes respectively. The Super Eagles were stunned and the Lions led after 45 minutes.
The atmosphere inside the Alexandria Stadium was eccentric with the Nigerian fans unleashing their drums and trumpets at full blast while their Cameroonian counterparts were all dressed in official colours and arranged themselves to represent their national flag.
Two of Africa’s football legend, Cameroon’s Samuel Eto and Nigeria’s Kanu Nwankwo was also present in the stands to grace the epic spectacle.
Cameroon almost doubled their advantage in 52 minutes when Pierre Kunde’s free-kick found Clinton Njie whose attempted pass came off a Nigerian shirt and appeared to be heading over the line only for Daniel Akpeyi to stick out his hands to keep it out. At the other end Ahmed Musa went down inside the Cameroonian penalty box after a challenge by Collins fai but the referee waved play on.
However in another three minutes twist, the Super Eagles were back in front as Odion Ighalo first restored parity for his side by volleying home an Ahmed Musa chest pass from close range in the 63rd minute and Iwobi won it for his side three minutes later when he kept his cool to finish past Onana after being teed up by Ighalo. The holders were staring at elimination.
Odion Ighalo was twice denied a hat trick by the brilliant Onana including an 83rd-minute header which the Ajax stopper somehow managed to claw away from his goal line with Ighalo in disbelief as the referee waved play on.
The Super Eagles held on to secure a memorable victory over their arch-rivals.
Nigeria will now face South Africa on Wednesday after the Bafana Bafana defeated Egypt in the late game on Saturday.