The dust from the first-leg performance of the Super Eagles against a largely young and inexperienced Ghana Black Stars side has not settled nor has the expectation from the fans for a win against this noisy neighbors.
Some players just failed outright to step up to the plate while some where bamboozled off the park; a crest and trough in the underwhelming show that’s given impetus to Ghana’s agitations for the Qatar 2022 World Cup ticket at Nigeria’s expense.
Here, we look at that night in Kumasi again with the Players’ rating and also point out players who could likely retain their places and the major doubts.
Francis Uzoho 8
He deputized for the first choice goalkeeper and it was good audition for the spot. His communication with the Back line was good as was his command of his area. He pulled to good saves to deny Ghana as his team came under immense pressure.
However he was found culpable of leaving his back post unguarded during a Corner kick and managed a clean sheet only because the poor instincts of the receiving Ghanaian player at the end of the ball.
Leon Balogun 9
His performance was exemplary. He proved the true leader at the back as the Sweeper and Destroyer. At 32, he should very little signs of aging with his strong tackles and ball winning skills.
He covered up well on the left side as well as sweeping behind his CB partner. He also initiated a number of attacking play; with the build up and progressing the ball even into the opponent’s half.
William Troost-Ekong 5.5
The captain on the night and retained the CB partnership with Balogun after the latter missed the AFCON. Ekong’s form has been on a download slope and Friday was another below par show.
He was indecisive in tackles, jittery in challenging for the ball but managed one clearance. His underwhelming performance weighed heavy on the right back and the other CB.
Ola Aina 8
He was solid in defence, keeping Jordan Ayew off the ball or trumping the Ghanaian attacker’s run. Aina also progressed the ball well, but the transition into attack exposed the back and showed his poor communication with the Number 7, Samuel Chukwueze.
Zaidu Sanusi 7
Besides his primary defensive duties which was executed averagely, Zaidu Sanusi struggled to offer much going upfront.
He was out of sorts and couldn’t create the partnership on the left to give Nigeria strength. His passes were off and mostly forced.
Innocent Bonke 7
Bonke was a late inclusion in the team to replace the injured Wilfred Ndidi. But Bonke also picked up an injury in the course of the game, though he had shown enough to earn a rating. He wasn’t Ndidi and his performance was average at the most.
The DM was all over the place, but his tackles weren’t clean, most weren’t properly tidied up and it put the defence under pressure. He would however disrupt the progression of the Ghana attack and was spirited.
Joe Aribo 5
Joe Aribo played as a CM, pairing Bonke in the heart of the midfield. His strength isn’t in defending and that loophole was exploited mostly. He was the pivot, but Aribo struggled failing to advance the ball or create enough chance for the attackers.
Kelechi Iheanacho 5
He played behind the FW as SS but made very little impact. He ghosted. He was isolated by the opponent left wide open because of his lack of pace and poor first touch. He hardly made a big play.
Samuel Chukwueze 5
The winger struggled to get a hold and could be left out from the second leg, beyond just the knock he picked. Samu lost possession, couldn’t keep the ball in his feet and his dribbles were forced. On the defensive end, he was a liability.
Moses Simon 5
One of the biggest flops on the night, Simon failed to show any real spark. He was as ineffective as Samu on the wing; whether on the left or right.
He had one great chance to decide the game but he went for power over technique, making a hero of the Goalkeeper. Defensively he gave an average performance but did not get to play the duration.
Victor Osimhen 6
The Forward managed just one shot on target but it was a feeble effort and made for an easy save. He was second best in the battle against the CBs partly due to the lack of creativity from the Eagles midfield and also some very good defending as play to the energetic Forward was very predictable.
Emmanuel Dennis 5
The attacker was introduced in the second half to add impetus with Nigeria enjoying a good spell. However Dennis managed a few touches on the ball but didn’t do much with it.
Ademola Lookman 5
His debut for Nigeria wasn’t remarkable. Lookman couldn’t show much flair, he could hardly stay on his feet on the pitch.
Peter Etebo 7
Etebo came off the bench in the second half, and was an instant impact. He controlled the tempo of the game, distributing the ball seamlessly from midfield up front as the Eagles progressed. His introduction helped the team create good spells late on.
However, he’s only returning to form and risking him to start in the return leg could be a huge risk.
Frank Onyeka 6.5
The fourth of five substitutes by the Eagles coach, Onyeka was brought on to add steel in the midfield. He struggles initially to settle in, but when he did eventually, Onyeka provided good cover for the defence, breaking play with timely tackles.
His burst of energy, strong tackling and pace was cheerful to watch. He made some smart tackles and impressed in the short time on the pitch for his debut.
In summary, a few changes can be expected while also the team’s structure could be tinkered with to give strength to make up for the loss of personnel due to injury or form.