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Africa Cup of Nations Qualification

‘He has silenced his critics’ - Victor Ezeji hails hat-trick hero Odion Ighalo

00:49 SAST 2018/10/15
Odion Ighalo
The forward scored his first treble for the Super Eagles to steer them to an imperative victory over the Mediterranean Knights

Victor Ezeji has showered encomium on Odion Ighalo after scoring a hat-trick in Nigeria’s 4-0 thrashing of Libya in Saturday’s African Cup of Nations qualifiers at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium.

After failing to convert a goalscoring opportunity against Argentina at the 2018 World Cup that could have earned the Super Eagles a place in the Round of 16 of the tournament, the forward was subject to criticism by fans.

However, the Changchun Yatai attacker, who has registered 20 goals this season for his Chinese club got the west Africans flying against Mediterranean Knights with his first treble for the Super Eagles.

Impressed by the performance, the ex-Nigeria international has lauded the feat while praising Gernot Rohr for his confidence in the 29-year-old attacker.

“Yes I am very happy for him for his performance yesterday, he has so much silenced his critics,” Ezeji told Goal.

“From the blast of the whistle, ighalo was hungry for everything and that is how he got the penalty which he scored himself and went on to score two other goals.

“Sometimes you have goal drought as a striker or not scoring as much as expected which is very normal for an attacker but you need a coach that can stand by you.

“The coach stood by him and gave him so much playing time and he was able to rediscover himself yesterday.

“Now his confidence will return. He has been scoring goals for his club and now he has replicated it for Nigeria. If he hadn’t scored, the pressure would have continued and I think that pressure is off his shoulder."

The second leg of the encounter with Omar Al-Marime’s men is billed for Tuesday in Tunisia and the 37-year-old is backing the Super Eagles to claim another victory.

“For a team to score four goals it gives the entire team confidence. If they can do it at home they can also do it away,” he continued.

“I am not saying they cannot lose the game but they have an edge knowing that they have beaten them with four goals but if they switch off they can pay dearly for it.

“If they can score four goals here there is nothing stopping them from beating them 6-0 or 7-0 in Sfax.”