Nigeria beat Egypt 1-0 and kept Mohamed Salah quiet in the process, Nigeria neutralised Mohamed Salah throughout the game
The Super Eagles of Nigeria got their AFCON 2021 campaign off to a great start with a 1-0 win over fellow African football game
The game kicked off the action in Group D and was expected to be a close encounter but the truth is Nigeria dominated from start to finish.
The Super Eagles had 15 total goal attempts with five on target, but more importantly limited their opponents to just four shots,Of those four shots, Egypt’s star man Mohamed Salah shot the ball twice, only once on target and was pretty much anonymous the rest of the game.
Mohamed Salah had just 14 touches in the first half, all outside the Nigerian box and not a single shot attempt. It was a combination of good work by the Nigerian defence and poor attacking play by the Egyptians.
Salah started on the right-wing as always where he had a direct matchup with Nigeria’s starting left-back, Zaidu Sanusi who did a good job on him by staying tight.
In a bid to find more space to operate, Salah then drifted towards a more central role where he caught the attention of the centre-backs, Troost-Ekong and Omeruo.
They continued the lockdown on Salah and made him look anything other than a player who has already recorded 23 goals and nine assists in just 26 games played across all competitions for Liverpool this season.
The only noteworthy moment Salah produced was in the 70th minute when he latched onto a delicate pass after temporarily evading the attention of the Nigerian defence.
Salah looked like he had a one on one with Maduka Okoye in the Nigerian goal but Troost-Ekong recovered brilliantly to pressurise Salah into mis-hitting the shot.
William Troost-Ekong was part of a back line that succeeded in keeping Mohamed Salah quiet Pulse Nigeria
The truth is Nigeria did not require special effort to neutralise Salah’s threat, they did not give him special attention. It was just all-around compact defending.
It also did not help Salah’s case that Egypt failed to get going, every attack they launched looked disjointed and uncoordinated. Salah made a few early runs, the type that would have been met with a pass at Liverpool was constantly ignored by his compatriots.
That was what led to him dropping deeper towards the end of the first half in a bid to get in on the action. The only time his clever movement was rewarded with a great pass was the aforementioned chance in the 70th minute which was denied by Maduka Okoye with help from Troost-Ekong.
So how did Nigeria stop Mohamed Salah? By focusing on their own defence and not feeling the need to pay him more attention than needed. Nigeria defended against Egypt, not Mohamed Salah.