The Manchester City striker opened up his international account goalscoring account in just his third appearance to put an end to Samson Siasia side’s four-game winless run
Nigeria ended a run of four games without a win as Kelechi Iheanacho struck the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Mali in Rouen.
The Super Eagles had failed to win since beating Niger 4-1 in January and they were kept frustrated for much of the game by Alain Giresse’s side in France.
Samson Siasia was shorn of a number of key first-team players for the game, with Victor Moses having asked to be left out due to fitness worries while captain John Obi Mikel joined Ahmed Musa for former defender Joseph Yobo’s testimonial match.
That lack of extra quality told in a match short on excitement throughout, with Odion Ighalo missing perhaps the best chance, but substitute Iheanacho struck with 13 minutes to play to secure the win.
Musa Muhammed, making his Nigeria debut at the age of 19, came close to breaking the deadlock in a first half low in quality, with Watford striker Ighalo spurning the only other presentable opening.
Another bright run from Muhamed shortly before the hour mark saw Mali’s defence carved apart, but his low cross was hacked clear and the threat once more came to nothing.
Siasia introduced Iheanacho for Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi in a bid to add some spark to proceedings, and the Manchester City man did just that, slotting home his first senior Nigeria goal from close range after Michael Babatunde found him in space in the area.