Idion Ighalo scored his fifth goal in the continental tournament to help Nigeria claim victory over the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia.
Nigeria clinched the bronze medal by defeating Tunisia 1-0 in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) third/fourth-place match at Al-Salam Stadium on Wednesday.
Francis Uzoho was preferred in goal ahead of Daniel Akpeyi, thus, making his first appearance in the competition, while Ola Aina replacing Chidozie Awaziem who was suspended for the game after accumulating two yellow cards. Odion Ighalo retained his position upfront along with Samuel Chukwueze and Ahmed Musa.
Tunisia coach Alain Giresse replaced injured goalkeeper Mouez Hassen with Moez Ben Cherifia and Youssef Msakni who suffered a muscle strain in their semi-final defeat to Senegal with Anice Badri. Nassim Hnid, Ferjani Sassi and Ghaylene Chaalali were also handed starting roles.
The Super Eagles got off to a flying start in hot sunny weather with Ighalo opening the scoring with only three minutes into the encounter after pouncing on a loose ball in the area. The striker stamped home the ball with his left foot for his fifth goal in the competition.
The Carthage Eagles had a chance to respond to Nigeria’s goal almost immediately after Ola Aina fouled Wahbi Khazri but the Saint-Etienneforward’s effort was blocked.
Nigeria almost got the second goal when Ighalo squared the ball into the area but Yassine Meriah was at hand to clear it to safety.
Tunisia went close to scoring the equaliser when Sassi shrugged off Wilfred Ndidi before launching a long-range shot but the effort went an inch of the target.
Carthage Eagles continued to push for a chance to level the game but were frustrated by the Super Eagles’ water-tight defence.
Ndidi had an opportunity to increase Nigeria’s lead after calmly collecting the ball in midfield but he blazed his effort wide of the target.
Tunisia made their first change in the 44th minute with Firas Chaouat replacing Taha Yassine Khenissi and moments before the half-time break, Ighalo was forced off after suffering an injury.
Sporting Charleroi striker Victor Osimhen replaced the Shanghai Greenland Shenhua forward in the 46th minute after the restart of the game.
The Carthage Eagles got close to equalising when Khazri played Chaouat through on goal but the CS Sfaxien man somehow managed to miss the target.
Giresse introduced Naim Sliti for Badri before replacing Hnid with Rami Bedoui as the North Africans continued to push for an equaliser.
Chukwueze had a chance to score the second goal for the Super Eagles but the forward’s curling long-range effort was brilliantly finger-tipped by goalkeeper Cherifia for a corner-kick.
Tunisia looked brighter towards the closing stages of the game but the Super Eagles did enough to hold on to their lead and claim the victory.
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