A relatively-new breed Super Eagles team came close to bringing down Ukraine’s “Blue and Yellow’’. The showdown was in Dnipro on Tuesday, September 10. They went on to suffer a loss of concentration for a 2-2 draw.
At the Dnipro Arena in the central Ukrainian city, the hosts were almost being disgraced by their guests. But two goals in 45 seconds with 15 minutes left saved the day.
Debutant Joseph Ayodele-Aribo put the seal on a frenetic beginning at the 31,000-capacity venue. He cleverly utilised a cross 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 become the 60th player to score right on international debut for Nigeria.
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, the Super Eagles 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 thwarted.
Eleven minutes later, the Super Eagles were two goals up, as Osimhen lashed into the far corner from the penalty kick spot. This was following Kalu being 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 Kalu was hacked in the box.
Semi Ajayi made a decisive touch to deny Victor Kovalenko 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 by Chukwueze ended with him once more placing the ball too wide of goal. Lunin was 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 was all too similar to the one Riyad Mahrez utilised to score for Algeria in the AFCON semi-finals.
However, the home team got lucky in the 78th minute. The dangerous Zinchenko got behind the defence and shot past Uzoho.
Right from the kick-off after the goal, loss of concentration handed the advantage to the home team. Yaremchuk got the ball past Uzoho.
Yaremchuk, however, appeared to have scored with the hand and the effort should have been ruled off.
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