The Super Eagles B came pretty close but eventually lost out on penalties after a flaming battle with the Black Galaxies of Ghana ended in penalty shoout-out heartache at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Saturday evening.
Ghana won the first leg in Cape Coast 2-0 courtesy of a penalty kick award early in the second half and a late goal scored on the counter, and opted for a contain-and-counter strategy in Nigeria’s administrative capital. The plan worked for large swathes of an encounter dominated by the Eagles B, but two well-taken second half goals by Muhammed Zulkifilu and Chijioke Akuneto drew the fixture level and meant the lottery of penalties would decide the winner.
Substitute Morice Chukwu crashed his kick, Nigera’s third, against the crossbar in the shootout to hand Ghana the ticket to be at next year’s 7th African Nations Championship finals. He was the only one who failed to score from the spot as Ghana won 5-4.
Nigeria created a hatful of chances in a ferocious first half, but Babatunde Bello’s long-range shots either failed to find target or were punched away by goalkeeper Ibrahim Danladi, and free headers presented to Valentine Odoh and Zulkifilu were wasted.
The introduction of Akuneto in the second half brought more urgency to Nigeria’s game, and the Eagles B shot ahead in the 77th minute after Zulkifilu connected home gloriously from a pull-out.
With the seconds running out, in the fourth minute of time-added-on, Akuneto powered home after a corner kick was flicked into his path by Samuel Amadi.