Nigerian soccer fans were left stunned again on Tuesday, as their beloved national team, Super Eagles, gave up a two-goal lead in an international friendly match played away to Ukraine, and eventually settled for a 2-2 draw with the East European nation, who even had a goal ruled out for offside seconds before the final blast of the referee’s whistle.
It looked like a first ever loss to an African country for the hosts, who had also won their last five home matches, but eventually they roared back strong, and ended their international friendly in Dnipro in an exhilarating draw.
Joe Aribo scored his debut goal in his first game for Nigeria in the fourth minute as he got to the end of a blistering counter attack led by Bordeaux forward Samuel Kalu who found Alex Iwobi for the cross that Aribo dispatched.
The Eagles were on the front foot again in the 10th minute as the trio of Samuel Chukwueze, Alex Iwobi and Samuel Kalu combined beautifully to outwit the Ukrainian midfielders but Kalu’s shot was smothered by Andriy Lunin in goal for Ukraine.
The Eagles defense had their own job to do to keep the Europeans at bay and goalkeeper Francis Uzoho who had been much maligned for some errors in the past produced two world class saves to deny the hosts.
Victor Osimhen made it 2-0 in the 33rd minute from the penalty spot after the sprightly Samuel Kalu was felled in the Ukrainian box.
Iwobi found Osimhen bearing down at goal seven minutes after his goal but the alert defence cleared the ball.
Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr started the second half with same starting line-up and they almost made the hosts pay but Iwobi’s shot after a pass from Osimhen who latched onto a loose ball was whiskers off target.
Andriy Yarmolenko’s cross eluded Roman Yaremchuk soon afterwards and William Troost Ekong clears after a kind touch of the ball by Semi Ajayi.
The Ukrainians enjoyed more possession of the ball in the second half and that paid off, as Man City midfielder, Oleksandr Zinchenko scored in the 76th minute, after which Yaremchuk made it 2-2 with a dubious goal two minutes later straight from kick off after the goal.
Although Yaremchuk’s 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, and it given.
Francis Uzoho then got down to palm away Yevhen Konoplyanka’s freekick in the 90th minute while a late offside goal by Yaremchuk was correctly ruled out.