In a breathtaking battle, William Troost-Ekong’s penalty secured victory for Nigeria against hosts Ivory Coast and swung Group A back in Super Eagles’ favour at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Super Eagles forward Victor Osimhen saw the game’s first real chance when he found himself in a good position but he failed to hit the target. Ivory Coast responded with a promising attack of their own but Stanley Nwabili pulled off a decent save. It was end to end stuff as Samuel Chukwueze went up the other end right away but his low effort was saved, too.

Ivory Coast had another strong chance in the 15th minute when Christian Kouame played the ball back to Evan Ndicka in a good position in the box but Nwabili denied him.

Nigeria got off to a strong start in the second half and their persistence paid off when Ousmane Diomande kicked Osimhen in the back of the leg as both challenged for the ball, giving away a penalty in the process. It was defender William Troost-Ekong who struck from 12 yards and he made no mistake in converting, rifling a powerful shot straight down the middle for the only goal of the game after VAR deemed that Victor Osimhen had been fouled.

With the win, Nigeria move to four points after two games in Group A with Ivory Coast remaining on three.

After drawing their opening game against Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria were good value for this narrow victory, although it only came after a debatable second-half penalty when Ousmane Diomande was deemed to have clipped Victor Osimhen.

Captain Troost-Ekong stepped up to score from the spot, and Nigeria were able to then keep Ivory Coast at bay and leapfrog them in the table into second.

Equatorial Guinea remain top and face Ivory Coast on Monday, at the same time Nigeria will fancy their chances against Guinea-Bissau.

With third perhaps enough to qualify for the knockouts, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast and Nigeria can all still progress – but defeat on Thursday certainly ramps up the pressure on the hosts heading into those final round of Group A fixtures.

Osimhen may have got the goal in the match and earned Super Eagles the penalty that ultimately won them the game on Thursday, but Nigeria need more from star striker Osimhen, who in turn needs greater service to go the distance at this tournament.

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The Napoli forward missed a glorious opportunity in the first half when he really should have done better – and that summed up a frustrating evening for him personally.

Unless he improves his finishing, it could cost Nigeria in the bigger moments. However, he has the quality to make amends and really prove to the continent and the world why he is the reigning African Football of the Year.

The player of the match, Nigeria’s defender Calvin Bassey, was a rock for the Super Eagles who put in a proper shift.

Player Ratings:

Nigeria: Nwabali 7, Aina 6, Troost-Ekong 7, Ajayi 7, Bassey 8, Zaidu 7, Onyeka 7, Iwobi 7, Lookman 7, Chukwueze 7, Osimhen 6. Subs: Simon 6, Osayi 6, Omeruo n/a, Onuachu n/a.

Ivory Coast: Y. Fofana 6; Ndicka 6, Diomande 6, Konan 6; S. Fofana 5, Aurier 5, Sangare 5, Kessie 5, Kouame 6, Boga 5, Krasso 5. Subs: Singo 6, Bamba 6, Pepe 6, Diakite n/a, Konate n/a.

Meanwhile, the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has congratulated the Super Eagles of Nigeria for their 1-0 victory against the host nation, Ivory Coast in their second AFCON match.

In a statement, Obaseki said, “I heartily congratulate Super Eagles of Nigeria for their well-deserved victory over the host nation, Ivory Coast in their second AFCON Group A match.

“The Super Eagles showed they were a superior team, showcasing their exceptional talent, skills and resilience, leading to the 1-0 win over the Elephants of Côte d’Ivoire.

“As they progress in the competition, I charge them to continue on their impressive run so they can place Nigeria on the continental map for good.”