The Super Eagles Friday fluffed another chance to take maximum points in the on-going Africa Cup of Nations, throwing away another lead after going ahead in the 57th minute through Emmanuel Emenike’s strike which left Zambia’s goalkeeper helpless.
The goal came as a relief when Nigerian fans at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit and others across the world watching on television were still ruing a John Mikel Obi’s missed penalty in the 26th minute.
The draw which leaves both the Super Eagles and Zambia with two points apiece also meant that the Stephen Keshi-tutored players may miss the $100,000 personal reward promised them to beat the Zambians by the Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi who flew into Nelspruit along his wife in time for the big kick-off.
With two points, the Eagles now have a must win situation against Ethiopia who they play in the last group match on Tuesday, hoping however, that Burkina Faso who play Zambia same day hold the defending champions or win to pick one of the quarter final tickets.
The match began on a rather slow pace after the Zambians took the kick off but it was the Eagles who
quickly took control of possession with Kenneth Omeruo sticking in a cross from the left in an early sign of danger for Zambia.
Despite their superior possession in the opening stages, Zambia were the first to carve an opening for a goal chance as striker Emmanuel Mayuka jumped over the Nigerian defence to meet Joseph Musonda’s right-wing cross which however did not trouble Vincent Enyeama in goal.
An opportunity for the Eagles to go ahead came in the 25th minute after Zambian defender Davies Nkausu hacked down Ahmed Musa but Mikel couldn’t convert the kick.
Eagles’ goal put the Zambians under pressure and coach Herve Renard did a double shuffle, bringing in Mulenga Mukuka for Chisamba Lungu, while Collins Mbesuma, scorer of Zambia’s goal against Ethiopia replaced their talisman Christopher Katongo.
The Eagles were on a cruise to recording maximum points when suddenly a bizarre penalty call from the Egyptian referee, Grisha Ghead in the 84th minute poured cold water on their excitement.
Eagles defender, Ogenyi Onazi and Zambia’s Emmanuel Mayuka were entangled in a struggle for the ball on the periphery of the 18m box and the Zambian just went on down harmlessly but the referee pointed to the spot
Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene stepped up and tucked into the top right-hand corner of the net to salvage a point for the defending champions.
Yesterday’s pairing brings to 16 the number of times both sides have met with five wins apiece and six draws. However the Zambians could not revenge their quarter final defeat in the hands of the Eagles at the 2010 edition in Angola as they promised before hostilities began.
Presidents of both countries were involved in motivating their respective teams yesterday. While President Goodluck Jonathan called in to wish the Eagles well at their hotel, his Zambian counterpart reportedly paid a surprise visit to the Chipolopolo in camp.