Nigeria staged a first-half comeback to defeat a difficult Sierra Leone side in their opening Group A game of the 2023 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Thursday in Abuja.
Goals from Alex Iwobi and Victor Osimhen saw the Super Eagles cancel out Jonathan Morsay’s lead to record a 2-1 victory under new coach Jose Peseiro at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium.
The Leone Stars started promisingly with a good chance falling to Mohamed Buya Turay but his effort was tipped over the crossbar by goalkeeper Francis Uzoho just on four minutes.
The Leone Stars got the opening goal seven minutes later through Jonathan Morsay who was making his first competitive appearance, heading home a cross from Noah Kamara.
Sierra Leone came very close again in the 15th minute as Turay had his shot come off the goalposts following a swift counter attack.
Nigeria regained their composure and got the equalising goal a minute later after surviving the scare.
Iwobi got his name on the scoresheet as his beautifully placed shot beat goalie Mohamed Kamara after being set up by Moses Simon.
The Super Eagles completed the comeback four minutes from the break as Osimhen got onto a header pass from Simon to put the hosts in front.
Both countries failed to produce a goal in the second period; they didn’t get a single shot on target despite Nigeria’s dominance.
Meanwhile in the group’s other game, Zinho Gano scored twice on his competitive debut to ensure Guinea Bissau rallied from to thrash Sao Tome and Principe 5-1 to open their account in the qualifications in the other Group A game in style.
Guinea Bissau manager Baciro Cande decided to give some new guys a chance in his team as he handed competitive debuts to teenager Mamadi Camara, Portugal-born Dalcio Gomes and Zinho Gano.
After eliminating Mauritius in the preliminary round of the qualifiers, Sao Tome came into the game with some confidence and it was them who struck first to open the scoring.
Edmilson Viegas found the back of the net to give the visitors the lead in the 21st minute but the goal was cancelled five minutes later through Alfa Semedo with the youngster Camara being the creator.
Experienced forward Piqueti Djassi was the provider on two occasions for Gano who scored twice in 8 minutes to give the Djurtus advantage with the goals coming in the 50th and 58th minutes respectively.
Substitute Zidane Banjaqui increased the tally in the 81st minute before Jorginho Intima possibly sealed the victory for the Djurtus moments later at the Stade de Marrakech in Morocco.
Guinea Bissau will be leading the group standings on goals advantage with Nigeria in second place after first round fixtures.
Sierra Leone will host Guinea Bissau at the Stade General Lansana Conte in Conakry whereas Nigeria visit Sao Tome in the second round of matches next Monday.