Nigeria’s Super Eagles team B were on Saturday knocked out of the 2022 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifying race after losing 4-5 to Ghana via penalty shootout.
The CHAN qualifier second leg match played at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja saw the hard-fighting Eagles score two unreplied goals to level goal aggregate at 2-2.
Ghana won the first leg in Cape Coast 2-0 on Sunday, and opted for a contain-and-counter strategy in Abuja.
The plan worked for large period of time in an encounter dominated by the Eagles B, especially in the first half as well as in the early period of the second half.
However, 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 saw his penalty kick (Nigera’s third) hit the crossbar in the shootout to hand Ghana the ticket to next year’s 7th CHAN finals.
He was the only one who failed to score from the spot as Ghana won 5-4.
Nigeria created a handful of chances in a ferocious first half.
But Babatunde Bello’s long-range shots in the 8th, 16th and 42nd minutes respectively either failed to find target or were punched away by goalkeeper Ibrahim Danladi.
Also 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 shot ahead in the 77th minute.
This was after Zulkifilu connected home gloriously from a pull-out.
With just few seconds left in the fourth minute of time-added-on, Akuneto powered home after a corner kick was flicked into his path by Samuel Amadi.
The defeat is the second in a row for Nigeria against the West African rivals in a qualifier for a major competition.
This was after Ghana’s Black Stars denied Super Eagles of Nigeria a place in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.