By Onochie Anibeze & Kate Obodo
Stephen Keshi got his first baptism of fire yesterday as head coach of the Super Eagles inside the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City as his wards could only manage a barren draw with The Zebras of Botswana.
The stadium was packed full with match-starved Benin fans who had come to see how their one-time idol of the New Nigerian Bank Football Club fame will re-shape the Eagles who have become objects of mockery by dispirited fans after they failed to pick a ticket to next year’s Africa Nations Cup scheduled for Equatorial Guinea /Gabon.
Before kick, Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole who adorned the green and white jersey of Nigeria took the shine when he jogged round the pitch with the ecstatic crowd cheering him. Former African player of the year, Victor Ikpeba and ex Eagles captain, Austin Okocha were applauded too when they sauntered into the stadium.
As is typical with Nigerian fans, chants for the Eagles to score goals soon rent the air after the players missed several scoring chances even as the visitors took the game to them, missing some chances with the woodwork denying them a goal on one occasion
Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama who made a return to the squad after his suspension by sacked Samson Siasia made way for Austin Ejide as Keshi tried to give every player a sense of belonging, a decision Ejide hailed, stressing that if the coach continues like this and with more friendly matches, the Eagles will return to their wing ways.
Aside Ejide, Keshi also introduced other players like Brown Ideye, Chinedu Obasi and VV Venlo striker, Ahmed Musa on a day another returnee, Fulham of England midfielder, Dickson Etuhu proved his worth and was voted Samsung Man-of-the-match.
Musa who came in after the break gave a good account of himself with his trademark runs, taking up the visitors defence but their young and agile goalkeeper, Kabelo Dambe was always at alert, warding off the shots on a rain-soaked artificial turf.
Former Eagles attacker, Victor Ikpeba said after the game that the encounter was not a bad one even as the Eagles missed missed so many chances, adding that “with time they will get better. The strikers need a killer instinct and I believe there is a lot of work to be done on the team.” Eagles will now head to Kaduna where they will play Zambia on Tuesday as they seek to rebuild after missing out of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.