Two goals in each half from Yaro Bature and Gbolahan Salami gave Nigeria a 2-0 win over Burkina Faso in the first leg of their 2016 Chan qualifier in Port Harcourt on Saturday.
Nigeria head coach, Sunday Oliseh, joined up with the team late despite illness and named a surprising startlist that excluded the quartet of Salami, Chisom Chikatara, Usman Mohammed and Prince Aggreh while Sunshine Stars striker, Tunde Adeniji got the nod to start alongside Ezekiel Bassey and Osas Okoro playing as wide men.
Burkina Faso had a number of their under-23s that played in this year’s All Africa Games in Congo with the like of Mohammed Bailou, Mohammed Sylla, Emmanuel Gora, Ilasse Sawadogo and Fousseini Beao making the match day squad.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles called the shots in the opening 15 minutes with Bassey and Okoro pulling the strings from the wide areas and causing the Burkinabes all sorts of problems.
It was evident that the Nigerian team were still getting to grips of playing together for the first time in a competitive game as they lacked the cutting edge in the final third.
Nasarawa United midfielder, Yaro Bature, kept trying pile-drivers at goalkeeper Bailou without success until the 24th minute when he opened score from close range.
Following a fine passage of play, the ball bubbled into the path of Bature and the midfielder fired home with power and precision past Bailou to give Nigeria a one-goal lead.
Eight minutes later, the Nigerian bench must have had their hearts in their mouths when Mohammed Ouattara’s long range effort swerved in air and almost deceived Eagles goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa who had to track back by a step to make a save.
Before the break, Okoro forced Bailou to tip the ball over his post while Bassey failed to put in an inch perfect cross after all of his hardwork on the left channel.
Solomon Kwambe who looked unassured at right-back was yanked off by Oliseh before the start of the second half for Orji Kalu Okagbue, whose first duty was to head off a dangerous Burkina Faso cross away from the far post.
Orji Okagbue, again, was on hand to make a timely clearance before any of the Burkinabe strikers could pounce.
Bature, Paul Onobi and substitute Chikatara all had chances to double Nigeria’s lead but failed to do so.
Salami netted from 12 yards in the 77th minute to give Nigeria a two-goal lead after Enyimba man, Bassey, was upended in the box while making one of his dribbling runs.
Nigeria’s two-goal lead will come under the test next weekend in Burkina Faso where the winners over the two legs will qualify for the 2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Rwanda.