2019 AFCON: Ighalo scores as Nigeria defeat Burundi

Author: Beatrice Laryea
Shanghai Greenland Shenhua striker Odion Ighalo scored four minutes after coming on as a second half substitute

Three-time winners and 2013 champions Nigeria edged past tournament debutants Burundi in their opening Group B match in the onging Africa Cup of Nations at the Alexandria Stadium.

Second half substitute Odion Ighalo scored the only goal on the 77 minute with a curled finish past Burundi goalkeeper Jonathan Nahimana.

Burundi - the lowest-ranked side at the tournament - had struck the crossbar in the first half through defender Frederic Nsabiyumva's looping header.

FC Midtjylland striker Paul Onuachu had Nigeria's first real chance on goal after 12 minutes as his header forced Burundi goalkeeper Jonathan Nahimana in to action.

Burundi, 134th in the world standings, remained unfazed and Cedric Amissi's close-range shot required a good save from Nigeria's Daniel Akpeyi.

Arsenal's Alex Iwobi and Villarreal 20-year-old Samuel Chukwueze offered the Super Eagles' main attacking threat, but Gernot Rohr's side were frustrated by a resolute and organised Burundi side - captained by Stoke City striker Saido Berahino - until Ighalo's introduction.

The Shanghai Greenland Shenhua striker, formerly of Watford, produced a quality finish just four minutes after entering the field, following Ola Aina's delightful back-heeled pass.

Nigeria were without striker Samuel Kalu, who had been taken to hospital after suffering from severe dehydration during training on Friday - a day after players' union Fifpro had called for the tournament organisers to increase their planned number of heat breaks from two to four per match.

The Super Eagles now face Guinea on Wednesday while Burundi take on fellow debutants Madagascar on Thursday.