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Our game plan worked against I’Coast — Eagles

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Captain William Troost-Ekong slotted home the match winner from the spot in the 55th minute as the Super Eagles put their AFCON 2023 campaign back on track with a 1-0 win over hosts Ivory Coast at Alassane Ouattara Stadium, Abidjan, on Thursday.

Amid the celebrations from their pocket of fans in Abidjan and those back home, Napoli striker, Victor Osimhen, who was fouled inside the Ivorian box for the penalty, said they had a game plan that they perfectly executed against the hosts.

“This game against Ivory Coast was a big statement game for us, we needed to win and make a statement in a competition like the AFCON. Ivory Coast have a lot of quality players in the squad so I think we deserved this win. We have also got a lot of talented players that can do the damange, we were focused from start of the game to the end.

“We had a game plan which we carried to the pitch, and I am happy that we executed it well and it worked out for us. We are going for the next game now, and we know what we need to do to qualify and we are ready for them,” he said.

Coach Jose Peseiro made two changes to the side that played a 1-1 draw with Equatorial Guinea on Monday, with Calvin Bassey taking the place of the injured Alhassan Yusuf, while Samuel Chuwueze got the nod ahead of Moses Simon.

The first chance of the game fell to Frank Onyeka in the second minute but his shot went wide following a nice interchange of passes between Alex Iwobi and Zaidu Sanusi to set up the Brentford man.

Victor Osimhen wasted the best chance of the first half after he failed to convert a fine through ball from Chukwueze that saw him through on goal with only Yahia Fofana — in goal for the Ivorians — to beat. Instead, the Napoli striker sent his shot wide, while it was easier to hit target.

Ten minutes into the second half, Peseiro’s men took the lead through captain Troost-Ekong, who stepped up to score from the penalty spot after Osimhen was fouled in the opposition box. It was Troost-Ekong’s third goal in as many AFCON tournaments, after he scored the winner against South Africa in the quarter-finals in his first appearance in Egypt in 2019. He also scored another goal in the 2021 edition in Cameroon, hitting target in the Eagles’ 2-0 group stage triumph over Guinea-Bissau.

Nigeria held on for nine minutes of added time to earn a deserved 1-0 win to move to second in the group with four points and just goal difference behind Equatorial Guinea, who beat Guinea-Bissau 4-2 earlier on Thursday at the same venue.

“We wanted to win the first game but we couldn’t. This was an important game for us to show what we are capable of and I’m really proud of the boys and we deserved to win,” Troost-Ekong said after the game.

“We know we were playing against a quality team especially at their home here. But we had to do more, we had to fight more. I think we have so much quality but we have to earn the right to win and this is a performance we can all be proud of,” he added.

It was one of the three-time African champions best performances under the watch of Portuguese Peseiro — who’s come under scathing criticisms following his side’s lethargic display before Thursday.

However, the hard-fought win against a side like Ivory Coast soothed the nerves of the country’s of the country’s football-crazy fans, ahead of the Eagles final Group A game against guinea-Bissau on Monday.

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