Nigeria, for the second time in five months, failed to qualify for a major football event. Both unfortunate events were at the behest of West African neighbour, Ghana. In March, Ghana’s Black Stars stopped the Super Eagles’ attempt to qualify for the Qatar 2022 world cup.
Yesterday, at the Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria’s hopes were dashed again as the country was one again denied the opportunity to qualify for a major championship as the Black Galaxies of Ghana defeated the Eagles B team, 5-4 on penalties in an Algeria 2023 final qualifying game.
It was always going to be tough for the home-based national team, who lost the first leg 0-2 in Cape Coast last week. However, yesterday in Abuja, the Nigerian team, tutored by Salisu Yusuf, showed great determination to get even after 90 minutes, taking the tie to a penalty shoot out.
After a goalless first half, Zulkifilu Muhammad got Nigeria on the way to redemption when he scored in the 76th minute to make scores 2-1 still in Ghana’s favour. The goal seemed to add more life to the Eagles team as they pressed the Black Galaxies, but they found the equalizing goal hard to come by.
When it seemed that the Ghanaians would run away with a 2-1 win, Chijioke Akuneto stepped forward with the tying goal with literally the last kick of the game in the 94th minute to drag the epic battle to a decisive penalty shootout.
Nigeria started the shoot out, scoring their first two kicks before they lost their penalty kick taken by Rivers United’s Maurice Chukwu.
That singular miss proved the decider, as Ghana scored all their five kicks to pick up the ticket to the 2023 African Nations Championship billed to hold in Algeria next January, leaving Nigerians going home empty handed.