CAPE TOWN: Striker Kelechi Iheanacho scored twice as Nigeria defeated Liberia 2-0 to make a winning start to their 2022 World Cup Group C qualification campaign, while there was also success for Cameroon and Tunisia on Friday.
Nigeria were heavy favourites for victory in Lagos and took the lead midway through the first half when Iheanacho unleashed a low drive into the net after being teed-up by Alex Iwobi.
The duo combined for the second goal just before halftime as Iheanacho this time scored from close-range.
They will be missing from their side's second qualifier in Cape Verde on Tuesday, along with other members of the squad who have been barred from playing by their English clubs.
A trip to the west African island nation, which is on the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 travel red-list, would require the players to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days on their return.
First half goals from Vincent Aboubakar and Michael Ngadeu steered Cameroon to a comfortable home win over Malawi in Group D, but wasteful Ivory Coast were held to a surprise 0-0 draw in Mozambique in the same pool.
The Ivorians were missing a number of regulars through travel restrictions, but still created enough opportunities to win the game.
A goalkeeping howler gave Ghana a 1-0 win over Ethiopia in Cape Coast as Mubarak Wakaso’s speculative effort from 35 yards in the first half was allowed to squirm between the legs of visiting keeper Teklemariam Shanko in a moment for him to forget.
In the other match in Group G, a much-changed South Africa under new coach Hugo Broos were held to a 0-0 draw by Zimbabwe in Harare.
The visitors had the best of the chances with Bongokuhle Hlongwane coming closest as his shot was cleared off the line.
Three second-half goals for Tunisia from Dylan Bronn, Ellyes Skhiri and Wahbi Khazri, via the penalty spot, secured a 3-0 victory over Equatorial Guinea in Rades.
They top Group B ahead of Zambia, who claimed an away win with a 2-1 success in Mauritania.
Enock Mwepu and Prince Mumba put the visitors in control, but they faced a nervous finish when Niass Amadou pulled a goal back for the home side.
Only the top teams in each pool advance to the final knockout round of qualifying that will be played in March next year.