By Sport Editor
New look Super Eagles team nearly beat Ukraine national team in their home by the whiskers. The Eagles without known manes like Mikel Obi, Jude Odion Ighalo, Ahmed Musa and a host of other top guns never showed any form of respect to Ukrain.
Intimidating as the stadium was, with Blue and Yellow, which represents their national colours, Ukraine was down by 2 goals at half time even as the Super Eagles missed the opportunity of adding more goals. So for the first half of the game on Tuesday Dnipro was silent until the Eagles suffered loss of concentration in the second half and eventually drew the game. It ended at 2-2 draw.
At the Dnipro Arena in the central Ukrainian city, the hosts were almost being disgraced by their guests, before two goals in 45 seconds with 15 minutes left saved the day. A good number of Super Eagles debutant impressed. Joseph Ayodele-Aribo put the seal on a frenetic beginning at the 31,000-capacity venue when he cleverly utilised across by Alex Iwobi. That was after great work by Samuel Kalu had left the Ukrainian defence in tatters.
The goal made the Glasgow Rangers FC player became the 60th player to score right on international debut for Nigeria. Interestingly, two minutes later, Samuel Chukwueze drove into the home team’s vital area but saw his shot saved by goalkeeper Andriy Lunin. In the 12th minute, goalkeeper Francis Uzoho read the Ukrainian foremen well enough to intercept what would have been a dangerous situation. Halfway into the half, Nigeria should have made it two as Iwobi’s chip found Ayodele-Aribo.
The Scottish Premier League forward connected with a diving header that took all of Lunin’s awareness to push over the bar. From the corner kick, Osimhen headed powerfully towards goal but Lunin again frustrated his effort. Eleven minutes later, the Eagles were two goals up, as Osimhen lashed into the far corner from the penalty kick spot after Kalu was upended in the box. In the 42nd minute, Uzoho made a terrific double save from Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Three minutes later, Iwobi could not really find Osimhen to make it three as Nigeria swept forward once more. Three minutes into the second half, Iwobi wasted a glorious chance as he dragged his shot too wide of Lunin’s post when clear on goal. Four minutes later, Nigeria should have been given a second penalty kick as Super Eagles’s Kalu was hacked in the box. Semi Ajayi made a decisive touch to deny Victor Kovalenko and Roman Yaremchuk in the 57th minute. This was just after Chukwueze sold his pass too long to Osimhen who lurked in the other end’s vital area.
Two minutes later, a brilliant solo run from the Super Eagles by Chukwueze ended with him once more placing the ball too wide of goal, with Lunin flat-footed. Andriy Yarmolenko, Yaremchuk, Zinchenko, Viktor Tsygankov and Mykola Matvyenko all made efforts to break down the Nigerian defence with no luck. Just after the hour, Uzoho showed why he should have been the one in goal for Nigeria at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt last July. He punched away a free-kick from about 20 yards that were all too similar to the one Riyad Mahrez utilised to score for Algeria in the AFCON semi-finals against the Super Eagles. However, the home team got lucky in the 78th minute, as the dangerous Zinchenko got behind the defence and shot past Super Eagles Uzoho. Right from the kick-off after the goal, loss of concentration handed the advantage to the home team, and Yaremchuk got the ball past Super Eagles’ Uzoho. Yaremchuk, however, appeared to have scored with the hand and the effort should have been ruled off. On the dot of 90 minutes, Super Eagles Uzoho punched away another fierce 20-yard free-kick.