This evening’s football match between Nigeria and Libya produced Odion Ighalo’s maiden international hat-trick and a first Nigeria goal for Samuel Kalu which fired the Super Eagles to a 4-0 victory over Libya in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo on Saturday.
The Changchun Yatai of China forward opened scoring from the penalty spot in the fourth minute, doubling his tally in the 58th minute, before completing his hat-trick 11 minutes later.
Kalu added a fourth right at the death to seal a win which ensures Nigeria climb into second place in Group E, a point behind leaders South Africa.
Nigeria started in impressive fashion, and were deservedly awarded a third-minute penalty after good pressing from Ighalo forced goalkeeper Muhammad Nashnoush into a foul.
Despite getting a fingertip to the ball, Nashnoush couldn’t prevent Ighalo from opening the scoring and affording the hosts the strong start they craved.
Libya almost responded within minutes, but goalkeeper Francis Uzoho produced a stunning one-handed save to deny Anis Saltou, whose firm header looked goal bound.
Alex Iwobi, who had struggled to influence proceedings in the opening half just behind Ighalo, gradually picked up his pace after the break, and his brilliantly weighed pass which sliced open the Libya defence was calmly tucked home by Ighalo after rounding Nashnoush.
The two-goal advantage clearly spurred Nigeria on, and it was soon increased to three with Ahmed Musa’s squared centre tucked home by Ighalo at the second attempt to complete his hat-trick and net his fourth goal in the qualifying campaign.
New member of the team Kalu, who had endured a mixed outing on his second start for Nigeria, bagged the final goal in a surprisingly one-sided contest, with Libya perhaps feeling the effects of the shock exit of their former coach, Adel Amrouche, and also poor preparations due to the fact that they refused to lodge in the accomodation provided by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) citing claims of “voodoo”.
Next up for both teams is the reverse fixture on October 16 at the Stade Taieb Mhiri, Sfax, Tunisia as both teams aim to consolidate their position in a bid to bag one of the two available group tickets to Cameroon.
In another group D fixture, South Africa defeated Seychelles by seven goals to lead the group on 7 points with 3 games left to play. It will be interesting to see the top two in this group at the end of the qualifying series.