Nigeria’s Super Eagles began their campaign at the 34th African Cup of Nations (AFCON) with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Equatorial Guinea at the Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium in Ebimpe on Sunday afternoon.
Loads of missed chances, mostly by Victor Osimhen and Zaidu Sanusi, saw the three-time African champion sharing the spoils with the Elephants, giving Côte d’Ivoire an early lead in Group A with three points.
Barely 30 seconds into the game, Nigeria nearly found the back of the net, but Alex Iwobi’s shot was saved by the goalkeeper, Jesus Owono, who plays for Alaves in the Spanish top-flight league.
Following a loose ball from Owono, which fell into the legs of Iwobi and immediately laid it to Victor Osimhen but the Napoli forward fired the ball wide off the goalpost just metres outside the 18-yard box.
Nigeria’s first clear chance to score came in the 10th minute following a pass from Alhassan Abdullahi into the Equatorial Guinea box. The ball made its way past several players and into the feet of Sanusi, who could have put it into an almost empty post but surprisingly played it wide.
Despite the Eagles being the most dominant team in the game, it was Equatorial Guinea that got the opener in the 36th minute when Ivan Salvador managed a shot past Stanley Nawabali to give his country the lead.
However, the lead did not last long as Osimhen scored less than 60 seconds later to equalise for Nigeria. The Napoli forward made no mistake as he made sure the cross from Ademola Lookman found the back of the net.
Another impressive save by Owono denied Nigeria a chance to go ahead for the first time in the game as he parried a low shot from Moses Simon into the tight end corner of the net to a corner kick inside half-stoppage time.
In the 53rd minute, Lookman provided Sanusi with another clear opportunity, this time going one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but opted for an unsuccessful pass to Lookman again.
Inside the last quarter of the game, Osimhen could have easily put Nigeria ahead after he was met with a through pass from the midfielder into the box, but the forward played wide as he went one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Nigeria will have to wait for the game against Côte d’Ivoire on Thursday for their first win in a game deemed the ‘match of the group stage’.