Mr. Duro Ikhazuagbe
With a 5-4 loss in the penalty shootouts yesterday night in Abuja, Ghana prevented Nigeria from qualifying for the 7th African Nations Championship (CHAN), which will take place in Algeria the following year.
Barely five months after Ghana’s Black Stars similarly prevented the Super Eagles from making it to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, lightning struck the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja once again as the Black Galaxies deprived the home-based Eagles the opportunity to qualify for CHAN 2023 the following year.
In the rematch, the hosts overcame their 0-2 deficit from the previous week’s game in Cape Coast to force a penalty shootout.
Muhammad Zulkifilu and Chijioke Akuneto each scored two excellent goals in the second half to draw the game, forcing a shootout to determine the victor.
Nigera’s third penalty, which was the result of a substitution, was missed by Maurice Chukwu, while Ghana’s five penalties, all made, allowed them to go to the final.
Nigeria had a number of chances in a furious first half, but Babatunde Bello’s long-range attempts either missed their mark or were blocked by goalkeeper Ibrahim Danladi, while Valentine Odoh and Zulkifilu both squandered free header opportunities.
The Nigerian team played with increased intensity following Akuneto’s arrival in the second half, and the Eagles B took the lead in the 77th minute when Zulkifilu struck beautifully from a pull-out.
As time was running out in the fourth minute of time-added on, Samuel Amadi whipped a corner ball into Akuneto’s path, and the striker blasted home to score the goal that sent the match into a penalty shootout.
Salisu Yusuf, the coach of the Eagles, was too stunned to attend the post-match press conference since he knew that his career as national team manager may have reached its end.