Super Eagles striker, Kelechi Iheanacho, has sent a strong warning signal to Benin Republic and Lesotho for their upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches as he struck thrice in Leicester City’s 5-0 obliteration of Sheffield United yesterday.
Nigeria, top of the Group E log with eight points (one ahead of Benin Republic and five more than third-placed Sierra Leone), tackle the Squirrels away at the Stade Charles de Gaulle in Porto Novo on Saturday, March 27 before lock horns with the Crocodiles of Lesotho at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos three days later. Both are the concluding games of the qualifying series.
Iheanacho put Leicester City up in the 39th minute thanks to Jamie Vardy’s assist. That strike ensured he scored in three consecutive English elite division appearances for the first time.
Also, his last 12 goals in the competition have all come against sides starting the day in the bottom half of the table.
In the 64th minute, Ayoze Perez doubled his side’s advantage after capitalising on some good work from Marc Albrighton.
Four minutes later, the Nigerian international got his second of the evening. Vardy latched onto a neat through-ball and showed great awareness with a first-time pass to pick out Iheanacho, who beat goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
He completed his treble in the 78th minute benefitting from Compatriot Wilfred Ndidi assist. Collecting the ball 30 yards from goal, he was allowed too much time to take aim before drilling a low shot past a helpless Ramsdale.
Things got worse for Paul Heckingbottom’s side in the 80th minute as Ethan Ampadu unwittingly diverted a shot into his own net.
Thanks to Iheanacho’s heroics, he has now been directly involved in 51 goals (37 goals, 14 assists) in 76 starts in all competitions, for Manchester City and Leicester City combined, since his move to England on the back of an impressive outing at the 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup.
Interestingly, each of the last three hat-tricks in the Premier League have been scored by African players – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang against Leeds United, Riyad Mahrez vs Burnley and Iheanacho vs Sheffield United.
With this result, the Foxes moved up to second in the Premier League. As for the Blades, they remain 14 points from safety with just nine matches remaining.