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Nigeria claim third place as Ighalo pounces on early error

Nigeria claim third place as Ighalo pounces on early error

17/07/2019 at 15:29Updated 17/07/2019 at 22:13

Africa Cup of Nations, Third-place play-off, Al Salam Stadium, Cairo - Tunisia 0 Nigeria 1 (Ighalo 3')

Nigeria soothed the pain of semi-final heartbreak to win the Africa Cup of Nations third-place play-off over Tunisia thanks to an early goal from Odion Ighalo.

It took the Super Eagles just three minutes to open the scoring, although they were gifted the goal after Tunisian goalkeeper Moez Ben Cherifa palmed a cross straight into Yassine Meriah, giving Ighalo the simple task of prodding into the empty net.

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Any hopes that this goal would spark a high-scoring, entertaining encounter were quelled over time, though. Tunisia recovered from their shaky start to find their footing, but never looked like equalising.

Taha Khenissi and Ellyes Skhiri both had chances to equalise before the break but both dragged their efforts wide of the target.

Samuel Kalu made an impression coming off the bench, going close to securing the win with a powerful free kick strike, but that was the closest both teams came to another goal as the Super Eagles ended their tournament on a high.

TALKING POINT - Alex Iwobi must do more for Nigeria

It almost looked like he didn’t want to be there. Third-place play-off games are always a strange event, with players so close to their summer holidays and with so little to play for. But Alex Iwobi took passiveness to a new level with his performance. This wasn’t the first time that the Arsenal winger failed to turn up for Nigeria at this tournament, though. He must do more for his country.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Jamillu Collins (Nigeria)

It was difficult to pick out a star performer from this match such was the standard across the board. Jamillu Collins did provide Nigeria with an effective outlet down the left wing, though, with this direct and proactive dribble into the box and cross into the middle producing the goal that would ultimately win Nigeria the match. Other than Collins, Wahbi Khazri was probably the only other player on the pitch who impressed.

PLAYER RATINGS

Tunisia - Ben Cherifia 4, Haddadi 5, Meriah 4, Hnid 6, Sassi 5, Skhiri 6, Drager 6, Chaaleli 5, Khazri 8, Badri 5, Khenissi 6. Subs - Sliti 5, Chaouat 5, Bedoui 5.

Nigeria - Uzoho 6, Omeruo 6, Troost-Ekong 5, Aina 5, Collins 7, Iwobi 4, Ndidi 7, Etebo 7, Chukwueze 6, Ighalo 6, Musa 5. Subs - Simon 5, Kalu 6, Osimhen 5.

KEY MOMENTS

3’ GOAL! Tunisia 0-1 Nigeria: Oh dear! It's another goalkeeping disaster for Tunisia. This happened in the semi final as well. The cross from Collins down the left should have been easy for Ben Cherifa to gather, but he palmed the ball into Meriah and that allowed Ighalo the easy finish.

40’ Injury! This could be the end of Khenissi's tournament. He is down on the ground and seems to be in some discomfort. Indeed, it seems that Tunisia might be about to make a change.

62’ Good save! That's a good save from Ben Cherifa. Chukwueze took the shot from the edge of the Tunisian penalty box, his effort was a good one, but the goalkeeper tipped it around the post.

87’ Off the line! The whistle blew so it wouldn't have counted anyway, but Skhiri had a header cleared off the line by Etebo. There was a push from the Tunisian midfielder, though.

91’ Great freekick effort! That would have been some way for Kalu to introduce himself to this game! He takes a freekick within seconds of coming off the bench and forces the diving save!

KEY STATS

Odion Ighalo became the first player to score five goals at an African Cup of Nations since Mohamed Nagy in 2010.

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