Nigeria defeated Iran 4-1 to book a place in the quarter finals of the Fifa U17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday evening.
First half goals from Samuel Okon, Kelechi Iheanacho, Musa Muhammed and a second half strike from Musa Yahaya ensured the red-hot Africans caged the boastful Persians at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain city.
Kelechi Iheanacho’s thunderous strike outside the west Asians’ penalty area which almost sailed into the net as early as the 30th second sent a stern warning of the Eaglets’ quest for a place in the next round of the championship.
Playing before the cheerful Nigerian supporters made the Iranians look uncomfortable as they were thoroughly outplayed by the Nigerian whose deft touches and blistering skills were beauty to behold.
Constant pressure from the Golden Eaglets however paid off in the 23rd minute as they got the well deserved lead through an unlikely source - Samuel Okon. The Greater Tomorrow Academy defender buried the ball into the net after getting a sublime pass from Yahaya who displaced two onrushing defenders- Komeil Haghzadeh and Sasan Jafari .
Three minutes later, Awoniyi set up Kelechi Iheanacho for the second goal after mesmerising the opponents’ backline. Iheanacho was however substituted few minutes later for Chidera Ezeh after signaling to the technical crew for a change no thanks to injury.
Musa Muhammed ensured the absence of Nigeria’s no 10 was not felt as he slotted in the third goal of the match- his second in the competition. He capitalised on a defensive error from Jafari to thwart the opponent’s ambition of attempting a comeback.
In firm control, the Eaglets were looking dangerous on the counter-attack. Their game-plan was clear and totally effective: allow the Asians to advance into attack and hit them on the break. Jafari was in trouble again when he tried to intercept Akinjide Idowu’s pass. The ball fell to Awoniyi whose effort was saved by goalkeeper Mahdi Amini.
Musa Yahaya got the third goal with 30 yard strike that gave Amini no chance. The Asians rallied as the game faded toward full-time, and they grabbed the consolation through Ali Gholizadeh who profited from a moment of careless from the Nigerian defence.
While Iran return home with heads bowed low, three-time champions Nigeria look ahead of a quarter-final against Uruguay, who defeated Slovakia earlier in the day.