NIGERIA’S Super Eagles were held to a 2-2 draw by Ukraine tonight after they conceded two quick goals within 45 seconds in the last quarter of the game throwing away what looked like an unassailable lead.
In the game that took place at the Dnipro Stadium in the south of Ukraine, Nigeria had the better of the chances as the Eagles repeatedly cut the Ukrainians open with their pace on the counter-attack. However, wastefulness in front of goal, a loss of concentration after substitutions were made and indecision at the back, contrived to throw away what looked like a certain victory.
As early as the third minute, Nigeria opened up the scoring when Samuel Kalu opened up the Ukrainians down the left and laid the ball square for Alex Iwobi. After turning his man, Iwobi played the ball into space, allowing debutant Joe Aribo, to ghost into the penalty and fire the ball home for his first international goal.
After that, Nigeria looked in control as the Eagles defended deep and the front trio of Kalu, Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze looked ever-dangerous on the counter attack. At the back, the Eagles looked a bit shaky but the Ukrainians were unable to exploit this and they paid the price in the 34th minute when Nigeria went two up.
Kalu danced his way into the Ukrainian penalty area and was brought down, forcing the Italian referee to point to the spot. Osimhen stepped up to take the resultant penalty and confidently stroked the ball home.
Before the break, Nigeria had numerous attempts to increase the tally but poor marksmanship cost them a third goal. Alex Iwobi in particular was guilty of dragging the ball wide with an empty net at his mercy after the Ukrainian goalkeeper had been dragged out of position.
At the restart, the Ukrainians enjoyed more possession but were not really dangerous until the 76th minute when Oleksandr Zinchenko scored after ghosting past a static defence. Yaremchuk made it 2-2 with a dubious a minute later straight from kick off after the goal as his arm struck the ball before it went in.
Italian referee Paolo Valeri initially overruled the goal but his assistant referee on the near side suggested it was legitimate prompting it to be given. After that, Ukraine pressed forward for a winner but the Eagles managed to hold on, thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Francis Uzoho.
Uzoho got down to palm away Yevhen Konoplyanka’s freekick in the 90th minute while a late offside goal by Yaremchuk was correctly ruled out. On the whole though, Eagles manager Rohr will be happy with the performance which saw his wards exhibit a few glimpses of good play.