Nigeria needed a late goal from substitute Odion Ighalo to claim a 1-0 win over a brave Burundi side playing their first-ever match at the Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday.
Ighalo, set free by Ola Aina’s clever flicked pass, side-footed the ball past Burundi goalkeeper Jonathan Nahimana in the 77th minute, four minutes after coming on in the opening Group B match.
It was tough on Burundi who refused to be overawed and enjoyed slightly the better of the first half, with Frederic Nsabiyumva heading against the crossbar from a set-piece.
“We couldn’t have produced a better performances because Burundi were very organised,” said Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr.
“We knew Burundi were unbeaten in the qualifiers, and we knew the first matches would be difficult. These teams don’t have anything to lose, they know us and know how to organise against us.”
Elsewhere, Rank outsiders Madagascar drew 2-2 with Guinea in their first-ever match at the Africa Cup of Nations after taking a shock second-half lead in the second surprise of the day at the tournament.
Guinea took a first-half lead with a superbly-taken goal by Sory Kaba in the 34th minute of the Group B game.
But the Malagasy stunned their opponents with goals from
Anicet Abel and Carolus Andriamatsinoro early in the second half before
Francois Kamano spared Guinea’s blushed by equalising with a penalty in the
Nigeria top the group with three points, followed by Guinea
and Madagascar on one and Burundi on none.