John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and Kenneth Omeruo are tonight (Sunday) celebrating their first major international championship after a single goal was enough to win the Africa Cup of Nations.
All three Chelsea men played the full 90 minutes against Burkina Faso in Johannesburg and all played their part in a 1-0 win. The goal came late in the first half and the victory was never really in doubt. The Nigerian goalkeeper was truly tested only once.
Moses overcame the ankle injury that forced him off in the second half of the semi-final and passed a late fitness test. Nigeria were however deprived of tournament topscorer Emmanuel Emenike.
The opening half was peppered with errors, unsurprisingly so with a young Nigerian side playing a major final against a nation not expected to make it so far in the tournament. Super Eagles defender Efe Ambrose headed over from a well-taken Moses free-kick in the opening minutes and Nigeria missed another early chance after a mistake from the Burkinabe keeper.
Moses was causing more problems to the opposing side than anyone on the pitch, switching wings and taking on full-backs. Ambrose brought the ball forward half the length of the pitch but his pass through the middle into the area for Moses to attack was too strong.
There was a warning for Nigeria at the other end when Bakary Kone had a free header at the far post on 37 minutes. Burkina Faso’s other first-half efforts had been long-range shots but from closer in and a difficult angle he could not hit the target.
Two minutes later Nigeria took the lead with Moses involved in the initial attack. The Chelsea winger might have been fouled when twisting in the area but he stayed on his feet and Burkina Faso’s half-clearance was picked up by Sunday Mba. He lifted the ball over a defender and then volleyed into the net Gazza-style.
More excellent wide play by Moses gave Brown Ideye the chance to shoot across goal two minutes after the restart but the angle was against him. Moses then spearheaded a counter-attack into plenty of space but was caught in two minds inside the area. His attempted pass was blocked.
On 56 minutes two Chelsea men were shown a yellow card in very quick succession. Omeruo, our 19-year-old central defender on loan at Den Haag, was cautioned for a foul, a touch harshly and Mikel went into the book for disputing the decision. It was rare blot for either player on the night. Both were solid with Nigeria on top.
Moses did do well as part of Nigeria’s next counter-attack but the target of his pass, substitute Ahmed Musa, stumbled at the crucial moment when poised to score. Burkina Faso went straight on the attack and it needed a superb diving save from Vincent Enyeama to keep out Wilfried Sanou’s shot.
That was by far the closest Burkina Faso came to scoring. On this occasion they could not produce one of the late goals that had played a big part in reaching the final.
Instead the chances inside the final 10 minutes were all for the Super Eagles. Moses with one was not able to get his shot away under pressure from the keeper after some slack defending.
The final whistle gave Nigeria their third Africa Cup of Nations win. Mikel becomes an African nations champion as well a European club champion.
Chelsea Football Club congratulates our three Nigerian players on their wonderful achievement.