After a frustrating goalless first half, second-half substitute Chisom Chikatara smashed home a hat-trick for Nigeria to dump Niger and go top of Group C in the 2016 CHAN.
The opening game between Tunisia and Guinea finished in a 2-2 draw, meaning both teams split the points with Nigeria top on three points. Nigeria went ahead just seconds after the restart when striker Tunde Adeniji floated a cross from the left for the lively Osas Okoroto stab home.
Then enter Abia Warriors young striker Chikatara, who came on as a 58th minute sub for Adeniji to score Nigeria’s second goal on 74 minutes. It was a superb goal as the man of the man chested a long searching ball by Okoro, before he fired past a helpless goalkeeper Alzouma.
However, Niger pulled a goal back through substitute Zakaria Adebayor in the 81st minute, when his thunderbolt from distance gave Nigeria goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa no chance. But just before Niger could celebrate the goal, Nigeria responded with a second goal for Chikatara off another assist by Okoro.
And in stoppage time, the 21-year-old Chikatara completed his hat-trick when he finished off a through ball from Prince Aggreh.
The Abia Warriors front man could even have scored more goals, but he lacked the composure inside the box with the Niger goal at his mercy. But before all these goals, the two West African teams had played out a dull, goalless first half with Niger frustrating the Eagles with their offside tactic.
Nigeria struggled to impose themselves over Niger, who have been solid and organised at the back even if they hardly threatened when going forward. Aggreh and Osas Okoro on both flanks went behind the Niger defence on a number of occasions, but the final finish deserted Sunday Oliseh’s team.
The pacy Aggreh struggled with his decision making in front of goal if not Nigeria would have been ahead early in this encounter.
The tempo was slow and ponderous in a game in the first period, but all that was forgotten with five cracking goals after the interval to wrap up an exciting match day at the CHAN in Rwanda.