Nigeria edges Egypt, Algeria held in Africa Cup of Nations

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Nigeria made a winning start to its Africa Cup of Nations campaign after seeing off a lackluster Egypt 1-0 while reigning champion Algeria was held to a stalemate by Sierra Leone.

Nigeria’s Kelechi Iheanacho overshadowed fellow Premier League stars Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez. The Leicester City forward scored the only goal in the 30th minute as Nigeria overcame Egypt in a clash of Group D big guns in the northwestern city of Garoua.

Iheanacho’s match-winner and overall performance earned him the man-of-the-match award on a day when prolific Liverpool scorer Salah and Manchester City winger Mahrez failed to sparkle.

Captain Salah cut an isolated, frustrated figure at the Stade Roumde Adjia and when he did get a scoring chance in the second half, his prod was saved by the boot of goalkeeper Maduka Okoye.

It was an otherwise uneventful evening for the Nigeria shot-stopper, who must have anticipated being called into action more often against the record seven-time African champion.

This was the eighth meeting of the Super Eagles and the Pharaohs in the flagship African tournament and three-time Cup of Nations champions Nigeria has won four and drawn two.

Nigeria succeeded after a troubled build-up in which German coach Gernot Rohr was fired following an unimpressive World Cup qualifying run and former national star Augustine Eguavoen took temporary charge.

Eguavoen’s squad was without forwards Victor Osimhen, Emmanuel Dennis and Odion Ighalo for a variety of reasons, but his team went on the offensive from the kick-off and did him proud.

Speedy winger Moses Simon played a major role when the Super Eagles took the lead at the 30,000-capacity stadium.

His cross was only partially cleared by Ahmed Hegazy and Nigerian Joseph Aribo nodded the ball into the path of Iheanacho, who hammered a half-volley past goalkeeper Mohamed Elshenawy. -Agencies