#AFCON2023: Nigeria’s Super Eagles fail to beat Equatorial Guinea


Victor Osimhen’s quick-fire equaliser spared Nigeria a shock
defeat against Equatorial Guinea in their opening game of the 2023 Africa Cup
of Nations.


Osimhen nodded in straight after Iban Salvador’s opener for
the underdogs.


Salvador’s classy first-half finish was his side’s only
attempt on target and briefly threatened a significant upset in the second game
of the tournament.


Jesus Owono made several second-half saves to deny the Super
Eagles, and Osimhen missed after breaking clear.


The stalemate in the Group A match in Abidjan means both
sides are two points behind Ivory Coast, who opened the tournament with a 2-0
win over Guinea-Bissau on Saturday.


Equatorial Guinea, who are 46 places below Nigeria in the
world rankings, celebrated ecstatically after taking the lead, but conceded
straight from the restart when Osimhen converted Ademola Lookman’s cross and
spent much of the match under pressure.


Goalkeeper Owono was in inspired form but breathed a sigh of
relief when African Footballer of the Year Osimhen misfired after being sent
through by Fulham midfielder Alex Iwobi with 14 minutes remaining.


Zaidu Sanusi had lifted an early Super Eagles chance high
over the crossbar when debutant Alhassan Yusuf’s cross found the full-back in
space inside the penalty area.


And Osimhen, the leading marksman in qualifying for the
tournament, also spurned a presentable opportunity with the game goalless,
heading Ola Aina’s inviting delivery wide.


Three-time continental champions Nigeria are seeking to lift
the trophy for the first time since 2013 but could not find a winner against
opponents who had beaten holders Algeria on their way to the quarter-finals at
the 2021 finals.


Owono tipped a low drive from Moses Simon onto his left-hand
upright just before half-time and also kept out efforts from Sanusi, Osimhen
and Aina as the second half wore on.


Equatorial Guinea return to the Alassane Ouattara Stadium
when they face Guinea-Bissau on Thursday (14:00 GMT).


Nigeria take on Ivory Coast at the same venue in the
subsequent game (17:00 GMT), pitting two teams considered strong contenders for
the title against each other.


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