AFCON 2021: Rating Super Eagles’ debutants against Egypt

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A few Super Eagles players made their African Cup of Nations (AFCON) debut in a win over Egypt.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria defeated the Pharaohs of Egypt in their African Cup of Nations ( AFCON) Group D opener on Tuesday. In the showpiece clash, a few players made their AFCON debuts.

Here is a summary of how they fared:

Super Eagles debutants, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ola Aina and Taiwo Awoniyi

Maduka Okoye (7/10)

Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper, Maduka Okoye, looked reliable in Tuesday’s victory.

As early as the fourth minute, Okoye had to be sharp to deny Mostafa Mohammed’s early shot at goal.

He put in a composed performance and stood tall to deny Mohammed Salah in the second half.

Okoye’s confidence would improve following today’s clean sheet.

Ola Aina (8/10)

Ola Aina put in an impressive performance today. The Torino fullback was one of the Eagles’ best players today.

He stopped attackers down the right and made a few interceptions which stopped the Egyptians in their tracks.

Aina also contributed to the attack with his charging runs down the right-hand side.

Super Eagles defender, Ola Aina

In the second half, the Torino fullback drove to the byline and clipped the ball into the near post. But from two yards out, Taiwo Awoniyi could not double the lead.

He asked many questions of the Egyptian backline while also keeping the Eagles defence secure. The former Chelsea man would be hoping to keep his form going throughout the tournament.

Semi Ajayi (5/10)

West Brom centre-back Semi Ajayi made his AFCON debut in the 80th minute.

Ajayi came on for the injured Kenneth Omeruo and gave off a calm aura as he stepped into the heart of the defence.

The centre back will feature more with Omeruo likely side-lined.

Zaidu Sanusi (6.5/10)

Another fullback making his debut, Zaidu Sanusi, gave a solid account of himself today. The Porto defender diligently shadowed Egyptian winger Mo Salah.

The left-back was helpful on the overlap, adding another threat to the attack.

He could have also gotten an assist if Awoniyi had buried his header from Sanusi’s cross in the 52nd minute

Taiwo Awoniyi (7/10)

Taiwo Awoniyi played a decent game today. His work rate was very admirably as the Union Berlin striker did not stop running until he was substituted.

His partnership with Kelechi iheanacho looked good and he ought to have also scored today.

Awoniyi tried to add to the scoreline in the 42nd minute when he latched onto an Iheanacho through the pass. But his shot was too close to the Egyptian keeper.

Union Berlin striker, Taiwo Awoniyi

Once again, Awoniyi had a chance to double the team’s lead just three minutes after the restart. Aina’s cross from the right by-line was headed on target by Awoniyi but the effort was tipped onto the crossbar.

A real handful, Awoniyi would hope to get better chances in future games.

Chidera Ejuke (6.5/10)

In a build-up to the tournament, Augustine Eguavoen spoke highly of CSKA Moscow man Chidera Ejuke.

Ejuke replaced Villareal forward Samuel Chukwueze in the 72nd minute. He was a handful for the Egyptian defence and was also impressed with his powerful runs.

In the 77th minute, he eased past Egyptian defenders, but his shot from a tight angle went straight into the arms of El Shenawy

In the third minute of extra time, Ejuke had a chance to win it for the Super Eagles. Kelechi Nwakali’s through pass looked to catch Egypt on the counter, but Ejuke’s right-footed shot was saved again.

The midfielder looked impressive in his limited minutes.

Kelechi Nwakali (5/10)

Former Arsenal man Kelechi Nwakali came on for Kelechi Iheanacho in the 80th minute.

His passing was decent and his through-ball in stoppage time to Chidera Ejuke almost led to a second goal.

Sadiq Umar (5.5/10)

Almeria forward Sadiq Umar came on for Awoniyi in the 72nd minute. Umar proved a physical presence as he gave away a few fouls.

He would look to games against Sudan and Guinea Bissau to open his AFCON goal account.

Joe Aribo (8/10)

Super Eagles and Rangers midfielder Joe Aribo

Rangers midfielder, Joe Aribo looked comfortable in today’s victory. Aribo looked to pick the Egyptian defence apart with his passing.

In the 26th minute, he created the first clear chance for the Eagles. A well-weighted pass from the midfielder found Moses Simon on the left of the penalty area, but the winger could only direct his shot into the side netting.

On the half-hour mark, Aribo latched onto a poor clearance on the edge of the penalty area and headed sideways to Kelechi Iheanacho. The striker then fired an unstoppable half-volley into the top corner.

Augustine Eguavoen’s men will be looking to Aribo to create golden chances in the tournament.

Kelechi Iheanacho (8.5/10)

It surprises many that Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho is also an AFCON debutant.

In a man-of-the-match display, Iheanacho lead Nigeria to victory with the game’s only goal.

Iheanacho latched onto Joe Aribo’s headed pass before guiding a left-footed shot from the centre of the box to the top right corner.

Iheanacho leading the celebrations after opening scoring against Egypt

The Leicester city man remained a threat all through the match. he dropped deep to help the midfield progress and he also played some good passes to Awoniyi.

In the 57th minute, Iheanacho almost made it 2-0. However, his first touch let him down and the Egyptian keeper dealt with the effort comfortably.

Iheanacho would hope that his goals can lead the Super Eagles to a fourth AFCON title.

Who impressed you the most? Let us know in the comments below.

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