Nigeria’s Alhassan Ibrahim dazzled in the first half

 Nigeria’s
former U17 World Cup winners Kelechi and Chidiebere Nwakali were
quite the cynosure of eyes as the Super Eagles B squad narrowly lost
2-3 to newly-crowned Europa League champions Atletico Madrid in Uyo
on Tuesday.

The
younger Nwakali (Kelechi), who captained the Class of 2015 to
Nigeria’s fifth cadet title in Chile, served as a big coefficient
of elder brother Chidiebere (a member of the 2013 winning team) in
the midfield, and alongside lanky orchestrator Alhassan Ibrahim, sent
ample signals to the visitors early on that they would have their
work cut out on the evening.

Kadiri
Samadi, Ibrahim and Emem Eduok had sight of goal at various times and
Kevin Gameiro had side –netted in a flurry of exchanges in the
opening half hour, before Kelechi brought the crowd onto their feet
with a superb, angled shot from 22 yards that Goalkeeper Jan Oblak
had no answer to.

However,
the Spaniards were level two minutes later, when Angel Correa
equalized after Eduok lost the ball in midfield and Gonzalez Sergio
pounced.
Emem Eduok

Goalkeeper
Olufemi Thomas then did well to save off an advancing Gameiro, but
the Eagles deserved to go into the break on top, only for substitute
Destiny Ashadi to blast over in the penalty area after being
brilliantly laid on by Samadi.

On
resumption, Thomas saved a smart shot from Jose Carlos Aliaga, and
Atletico came very close from a melee, before Fernando Torres, who
was playing his valedictory game for the Europa League champions,
rose highest to nod home his team’s second goal from a corner kick.

While
the Nwakali brothers continued to pull strings in midfield, Captain
Musa Muhammed (2013 U17 World Cup –winning team captain) and Ebube
Duru showed class as wingbacks, and Duru’s replacement Ikouwem Udoh
replicated his impressive form at the CHAN finals in Morocco earlier
in the year.

Substitute
Usman Mohammed, a member of the Nigeria squad that won bronze at the
2016 Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in Brazil, and who plays his
club football in Norway, scored an audacious goal in the 80th minute,
turning two Atletico players and the goalkeeper inside out after a
pass from fellow substitute Tosin Omoyele before slotting past
substitute goalkeeper Axel Werner.

But
there was time for the visitors to net the winner, with substitute
Garces Borja blasting past Thomas as Atletico Madrid swept on the
homers’ defence with four minutes left.

Correa
was named most valuable player of the match, and Atletico Madrid were
awarded the GOTVMax Cup that was specially for the occasion. Torres
was also honoured for his great contribution to the Atletico cause
over the years.

On
the whole, the occasion was a fitting montage to the final phase of
the Super Eagles’ preparations for the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup,
which begins in Uyo on Wednesday, 23rd May, and will proceed apace
with the international friendly against the Simba of the Democratic
Republic of Congo in Port Harcourt on Monday, 28th May.

On
Saturday, 2nd June, Nigeria will take the pitch against England at
Wembley, in only the third official meeting between the two nations
linked by strong historical ties, and on the following day, the
Nigeria delegation will be flown in a chartered flight to Bad
Tatzmannsdorf, venue of an eight-day camping programme at the Avita
Resort. In-between the camping, the team will play Czech Republic in
a final pre-World Cup friendly at the Rudolf Tonn Stadium outside
Vienna on Wednesday, 6th June.

The
Eagles will fly into Russia for their sixth FIFA World Cup finals on
11th June, direct to the team base camp at Yessentuki. They play
Croatia in their first match in Kaliningrad on 16th June, trade
tackles with Iceland in Volgograd on 22nd June and take on Argentina
in Saint Petersburg on 26th June, in the last game of Group D.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here