By Nurudeen Obalola:
Nigerian youngster Kelechi Iheanacho was the star of the show on Tuesday as Manchester City defeated Roma 5-4 on penalties after regulation time ended 2-2 in an International Champions Cup clash in Melbourne, Australia.
Despite the presence of superstars Yaya Toure, David Silva and Raheem Sterling, Iheanacho was the standout player in the match as the Flying Eagles star scored one goal and assisted another.
The teenager played as a centre forward, but had to drop deep to make his first big contribution.
With vision well beyond his tender years, Iheanacho picked the ball up in the centre of the pitch barely three minutes into the match, spotted Sterling’s run and lifted a glorious pass to send the new signing clean through.
Sterling gratefully accepted the pass and slotted past the Roma keeper, Morgan De Sanctis, for the Englishman’s first City goal.
Roma equalised five minutes later through Miralem Pjanic, but Iheanacho gave City the lead again.
The vibrant Nigerian was one of only few City players who returned for the second half having started, and he justified coach Manuel Pellegrini’s decision.
Iheanacho had seen a close range header saved by De Sanctis in the 33rd minute, but he gave the Roma keeper no chance when he was through on goal following a back pass six minutes after the break.
Left with only the keeper at his mercy, Iheanacho kept his head, picked his spot and blasted the ball into the roof of the net for City’s second goal.
Iheanacho was subbed off to a standing ovation from appreciative City fans after 73 minutes.
Adem Ljajic’s 87th minute freekick restored parity for Roma and ensured that regulation time ended in a thrilling draw.