The Super Eagles of Nigeria got their qualification quest for the Russia 2018 World Cup to a winning start with a 2-1 win over the Chipolopolo of Zambia at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium on Sunday.
Two first goals from Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi saw Nigeria cruising in Ndola while a lone strike by Collins Mbesuma after the break for the home side proved a mere consolation as Genort Rohr’s men took home all available points.
It was the Zambians that had the first go at goal as Fwayo Tembo tried a shot from 25 yards but Carl Ikeme was on hand to push it over the bar for a corner kick which was effectively dealt by the Eagles defense.
Nigeria had their own chance moments later when Ideye won a free kick, Moses Simon swung the ball but the Zambia keeper, Kennedy Mweene forced a corner.
Tembo was again close to giving the Zambians the lead in the 23rd minute as the forward neatly took off Eagles right back Wilfred Ndidi before taking a driving shot but Ikeme had no problems stopping the ball.
Nigeria could have benefited from a mix-up in the Zambia defence but Moses Simon opted to play a shot from an awkward position instead of giving Ideye who was better placed .
The opening goal came for Nigeria in the 33rd minute through Alex Iwobi as the Arsenal benefited from slack defending from the Zambians.
Wilfred Ndidi’s throwing was knocked down to Iwobi by a Zambian defender and the 20-year old wasted no time as he fired a shot the keeper had no chance of stopping
Moments after Nigeria was close to adding another goal but Iheanacho’s shot from outside the box went inches wide.
Zambia kept putting the pressure on the Nigeria defense and they almost pegged back the Eagles when Tembo from the right flanked whipped a cross and Kalaba met the ball with a strong header but a point blank save from Ikeme denied the hosts.
Kalaba was to be booked after for simulation.
The second goal for Nigeria came in the 42nd minute from Iheanacho who connected a one-two pass from Ideye before rounding off the Zambia keeper to score.
Trailing 2-0, Zambia coach started the second half with a tactical change as he brought in Kondwani Mtong for Adrian Chama.
The first chance in the second half fell to the Zambians but Mbesuma’s effort was kept in check by Ikeme.
At the other end, there was quick interchange between Iwobi and Iheanacho before the Manchester City fired a shot that was saved by the Zambia keeper who also denied Mikel who had a wonderful attempt from outside the box.
Ikeme was also busy in the Nigeria goal as Kalaba almost reduced the deficit when Nigeria right-back Ndidi slipped on the ball and the Zambian pounced on the ball.
The first goal did come for Zambia and it was off a defensive mistake from Kenneth Omeruo who literally gave Mbesuma an assist and the huge striker fired in from close range.
Zambia Coach threw in his final joker bringing in Rodgers Kola comes in for Fwayo Tembo and the new man did cause the Eagles trouble upfront.
On his part coach Genort Rohr also made a tactical changes bringing in the fleet-footed Ahmed Musa for Moses Simon and later killing the game bringing in Shehu Abdulahi for Ogenyi Onazi.
Next stop for the Super Eagles is a home game against Algeria next month in Uyo.