File photo: Nigerian players pose prior to the 2013 African Cup of Nations semi-final football match Mali vs Nigeria AFP PHOTO
The Super Eagles had perhaps their best test on Monday morning since camp opened three weeks ago, when they played out a 2-2 draw against back to back Nigerian Premier League champions, Kano Pillars of Kano.
The game which was played at the mainbowl of the Abuja National Stadium, attracted quite a few fans including NFF Director of Competitions, Dr Mohammed Sanusi, Pillars Management Committee boss, Dr Abba Yola and the national women’s U20 team known as the Falconets, complete with their technical crew and staff at the stadium.
The Eagles technical crew opted to start with the best possible squad available as Chigozie Agbim, Solomon Kwambe, Ebenezer Odunlami, Azubuike Egwuekwe, Ikenna Paul, Ugonna Izuchukwu, Benjamin Francis, Rabiu Ali, Abubakar Ali, Uzoenyi Ejike and Ifeanyi Ede all started.
With just five minutes on the clock, the Eagles forced a free kick after Uzoenyi was harshly brought down close to the vital area. He opted to take the kick himself and his deft left foot found the head of towering Egwuekwe, whose header was helped into the net by Abubakar Ali. Many thought it was going to be a goals feast for the Eagles but how wrong they were.
The league champions with Chief Coach, Abdulahi Abdulmakabi dishing out instructions regrouped quickly and five minutes later forced a penalty when their raid on the Eagles vital area was adjudged to have been palmed by one of the defenders. The resultant penalty was neatly tucked in by Bello Kofamata, who turned out to be the hatchet man for the league champions.
As the Eagles were thinking of a positive reaction, it was Kofamata, who struck again in the 21st minute when a quick throw from keeper, Joseph Ewuga found Saliu Nura who outran the Eagles defence to find Kofamata, who was too delighted to hit home. The Eagles reacted almost immediately when Rabiu Aliu and Abubakar Ali’s fierce challenge fell to the chest of Aliu who riffled home swiftly in the 40thminute. It was to be the final goal of an exciting encounter.
The second half inclusion of Christian Pyagbara, Barnabas Imenger, Ikechukwu Azubuike, Ejiro Etebor, Bright Esieme, Aliyu Obaje and goalkeeper Dele Alampasu brought sparkle but no goal. The game thus ended 2-2 , with Eagles Head Coach Stephen Keshi declaring that he was happy with what he saw of his boys.
Abdulamakabi, the Pillars’ handler declared that it was a testy duel and his players whom he said know all the Eagles stars gave their all. He added that the Eagles will go far at the CHAN tourney in South Africa.
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