The Super Eagles got their 2017 Africa Nations Cup (Afcon) qualification campaign off to a flyer with a 2-0 win over Chad in Kaduna on Saturday.
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi handed debuts to Anderson Esiti and Kingsley Madu while usual suspects Vincent Enyeama, Ogenyi Onazi, Ahmed Musa and Kenneth Omeruo all got starting berths.
Madu had Nigeria’s first chance of the day when he charged through midfield to fire wildly with an unexpected shooting opportunity beckoning inside the first 10 minutes.
Surprisingly, the first real chance of the game came the way of the visitors, but Ezechiel N’Douassel fired wide when the ball fortuitously fell to him in the 17th minute with the Nigerian defence looking sluggish and unable to clear.
Nigeria responded with an attack of their own in the 23rd minute when Musa’s free-kick from 25 yards out was spectacularly tipped over for a corner by Mbairamadji Dillah.
The Super Eagles were concentrating their attacks down the left-hand channel where Salami was having a swell time.
Nigeria almost opened the scoring in the 32nd minute when Musa’s delivery from a corner was met by a thumping Leon Balogun header that missed the target.
Salami continued to impress and shortly after Balogun failed to open the scoring, he was presented with the game’s best chance yet when the impressive Madu fed him with a low cross from the left.
Without breaking his stride, Salami struck a powerful shot which Dillah did well to beat away. The Warri Wolves striker followed up the rebound with a looping header, which bounced off the top of the net.
On 38 minutes, Nigeria captain Enyeama showed why he’s regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world when he miraculously kept out Azrack Mahamat’s effort after a fortuitous N’Douassel shot fell along his path.
Nigeria started the second half on the front foot and should have scored three minutes from time but for some poor decision making by Madu.
The left-back opted to shoot rather than pass and struck his shot from outside the penalty area as the groans began to mount among the home team’s support.
On 53 minutes, Nigeria came closest to scoring but Aaron Samuel watched in agony as his fiercely-struck free kick clattered off the foot of the post.
Keshi rang the changes on the hour and the effect was immediate, deadly and efficient.
Rabiu Ibrahim replaced Babatunde while Odion Ighalo came on for the injured Samuel.
Salami received a pass just inside the Chad box and his first touch set him up nicely before he unleashed a venomous shot which two goalkeepers would have struggled to keep out.
The Super Eagles were now playing with style, swagger and confidence and almost doubled their lead just seconds later.
Asselmo gave away a penalty in the 79th minute after wrestling Ighalo to the ground and in the ensuing melee, Onazi was given a straight red card for an unnecessary scuffle with a the Chadian defender.
Ighalo kept his nerve and dispatched the penalty to ensure there would be no grand stand finish from a Chadian perspective with just 10 minutes left on the clock.
Nigeria now heads group F with the second game in the group between Egypt and Tanzania still to come.