Nigeria’s Super Eagles started their two-games friendly campaign with a 1-0 win over Mali at the Stade Richon in Rouen on Friday.
Kelechi Iheanacho came off the bench in place of Alex Iwobi to score his first international goal for the Super Eagles.
Interim coach Salisu Yusuf put out a makeshift squad with Musa Mohammed making his début at right back while Ogenyi Onazi stepped in a skipper for the day.
With only goalkeeper Djigui Diarra to beat, Ighalo wasted a golden chance in the 19th minute. There were plenty of great opportunities but Ighalo, debutant Musa Muhammed and Etebo could not get the ball into the Malian net before half time.
Just before half time, an error by stand-in skipper Ogenyi Onazi nearly gifted Mali the lead. But the impressive Carl Ikeme covered well.
The mobile Musa Muhammed was thwarted after a good pass by the creative Alex Iwobi in the 50th minute. Etebo was then foiled three minutes later before Ighalo wasted another opportunity on the hour mark. Ikeme saved well from a header in the 69th minute, before substitute Kelechi Iheanacho scored Nigeria’s only goal in the 77th minute, only three minutes after coming on.
Iheanacho had replaced Iwobi in the 74th minute, in-between two efforts by Umar Aminu. Another substitute, Babatunde Michael, worked out a brilliant pass for the Manchester City forward to slot past the Malian goalie.
Six minutes from time, Iheanacho rattled the goalkeeper once again, before left-back Kingsley Madu came close with a shot.
The Eagles were cheered off the field after what NFF President Amaju Pinnick called “an exciting display” at the Stade Robert Diochon. “I’m quite happy with the display and the result,” Pinnick added.
Coach Salisu Yusuf told thenff.com. “The performance is inspiring and I am happy about the team spirit. Every player fought well on the field. The commitment and determination is there, and we hope to carry this forward.”
The Super Eagles will depart Rouen on Sunday for Luxembourg City, where they play that country’s senior team on Tuesday night.