Battle of Abidjan: How Super Eagles survived Ivorian scare to book CHAN ticket for the first time ever

Posted by News Express | 28 July 2013 | 4,815 times

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Players and officials of Super Eagles Team B are basking in praises after their feat yesterday evening when they overcame a determined Ivorian side to earn Nigeria’s first-ever qualification to play in the finals of the African Nations Championship (CHAN).

Despite taking a handsome 4-1 lead into the return leg in Abidjan the Eagles were “looking pitiably insufficient after the Ivorians raced to a 2-0 lead before the half-hour at Stade Robert Chambroux,” reports KickOff Nigeria. The Stephen Keshi-tutored boys however flew higher in the second half to ensure that the African champions will be at the finals of the continental championship for home-based stars to be staged in the South African cities of Cape Town, Polokwane and Bloemfontein in January next year.

The signs had appeared ominous for the visitors when Kevin Zougoula scored twice in the first-half as the Ivorians looked to overturn the first leg 4-1 deficit in Kaduna, but the Eagles bravely rallied towards the end of the half and held on for all of the second.

According to Kickoff Nigeria, which covered the match: “Needing three clear goals to advance, and with a noisy, heaving crowd behind them, the Elephants were quick off the blocks, as Zougoula and Cheick Moukouro raided down their left channel.

“It did not take them long too threaten. Zougoula evaded three Nigerian defenders with a slick turn, and sent the ball wide out to Moukouro.

“His cross was near perfect, until it was alt with by Godfrey Oboabona. That was just four minutes in.

“Two minutes later, they had the breakthrough. Azubuike Egwuekwe, under no pressure, sent a short back header to goalkeeper Chigozie Agbim.

“The goalie was caught cold, in no man's land as he raced off his line to rescue the situation. Zougoula was quicker, toe-poked the ball underneath the keeper.

“If the Robert Chambroux Stadium was noisy before, the goal turned it even more raucous.

"Inspired by their early breakthrough, the Elephants pressed forward, contesting and winning the majority of the 50/50 balls as the Super Eagles laboured to get a foothold in the game.

“Egwuekwe came inches close to making amends for his earlier error, but rose unmarked to head Gomo Onduku’s cross over the bar.

“Not long after, it was 2-0.

“Solomon Kwambe cleared a short corner, but not far enough, and it fell to Zougoula with his back to goal.

“Rabiu Ali, in his attempt to make a better clearance, took the forward with the ball. The referee pointed to the spit, Zougoula picked himself up and drilled past Agbim.”

Nigeria thus joins Morocco, which eliminated Cup holders Tunisia, as well as Libya, Ghana, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Uganda and hosts South Africa in the 16-team finals due from January 11, 2014.

President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Alhaji Aminu Maigari, led the chorus of praises for the Eagles, saying: “It was never going to be easy, but I was confident the Eagles would pull it through and make Nigeria proud. Of course, there were bound to be so many odds against them, being on away ground.

“To hold steadfast after that opening barrage on away ground is not easy; it takes a team that has strength of character and determination. I commend the players and their officials for a job well-done.

“You see, all these positives are coming because we now have peace in the football family. Peace is a catalyst for progress. And as I said on Channels Television on Thursday night, the NFF will remain eternally grateful to the Secretary to Federal Government, Distinguished Senator Anyim Pius Anyim (GCON) and the Honourable Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, for brokering the peace.”

Nigeria missed the first two editions of the nascent championship, first courtesy of Ghana, which shut out the Eagles from the inaugural edition in Ivory Coast in 2009 and then by Niger Republic, which stopped the Eagles’ flight to Sudan 2011.

Photo, courtesy KickOff Nigeria: Midfield Star Sunday Mba (right) battling it out with an Ivorian challenger . . . yesterday in Abidjan.

Source: News Express

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