ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (REUTERS) - Nigeria became the first side to advance to the knockout stage of the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday (June 26) as they beat Guinea 1-0, having taken more than an hour to break the deadlock for the second straight match.
Nigeria centre back Kenneth Omeruo scored the only goal of the game after 73 minutes, rising unchallenged to head home a corner from Moses Simon at the Alexandria Stadium. It was Nigeria's second Group B win from two games, but was another testing encounter after they beat Burundi 1-0 in their opener having taken 77 minutes to break down the resilient rookies.
Nigeria's six points guarantees progress to the last 16 after a major improvement in their form from the opening game of the tournament.
Nigeria changed their approach and sought to use the flanks with Simon on the right wing and Ahmed Musa on the left among five changes to the starting lineup made by coach Gernot Rohr.
The impact was almost immediate as Simon beat his marker to deliver an inviting square pass inside the second minute, but Alex Iwobi hesitated and the chance was lost.
Musa then gave notice of the threat he might pose with a surging run and delivery from which Odion Ighalo could have scored had his first touch not allowed the ball to bounce away from him.
Simon got away again down the right just after the half-hour mark, with Ighalo galloping up in tandem. Simon did not deliver the pass, however, and chose to go on his own instead, hitting the side netting from a tight angle.
After the break, Iwobi's shot forced a save from Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone, who was included in the team after coach Paul Put criticised the performance of Aly Keita in Guinea's 2-2 draw with debutants Madagascar in their opening game.
Kone also punched away a free kick just after the hour mark from Nigeria midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo.
Guinea's Naby Keita started his first match since he suffered an adductor injury playing for Liverpool against Barcelona on May 1, but he was taken off after 70 minutes having received several knocks in the game.