The Baba Yara Stadium was bedecked in yellow and red as the almost capacity full arena brimmed with energy. The Black Stars had said they had a plan to get a positive result against the Super Eagles and they started as though they meant business.
With a starting 11 that included teenagers Abdul Fatawu Issahaku (18) and Felix Afena-Gyan (19), the Black Stars were straight into the attack and won their first corner kick in the second minute. The Eagles launched their first attack through Samuel Chukwueze in the 12th minute but the run was forcefully stopped by Daniel Amartey.
The Eagles were saved by an excellent tackle by Leon Balogun on Issahaku in the 15th as the teenager was almost through on goal. Zaidu Sanusi almost found Victor Osimhen in the box. Good and aggressive play by the left-back to bound up the pitch and cross.
Uzoho had to be fully prepared to save a fierce effort from Issahaku in the 32nd minute. That woke up the Nigerians as the Eagles won their first corner kick in the 36th minute. The first goal-scoring chance fell to Osimhen a minute later but he could not connect properly with a cross from Ekong.
Joe Aribo then created a goal-scoring chance in the 40th minute as he ghosted into the Black Stars box but the chance fell on his weaker right foot and he skied his effort. The Eagles ended the first half on the ascendancy though the Black Stars ended the half with over 62 per cent of ball possession.
The second half started with another corner kick to the Black Stars. Daniel Amartey pleaded for a penalty after a tussle with Aina. The referee consulted VAR and waved play on. Another corner kick resulted in a save by Uzoho.
Nigeria’s best chance in the match fell to Moses Simon in the 55th minute when he was fed by Kelechi Iheanacho but the Ghanaian goalkeeper pulled off a great save. Emmanuel Dennis, Frank Onyeka, Oghenekaro Etebo, Calvin Bassey, and Ademola Lookman were second-half substitutes with Lookman and Bassey handed their debuts by Eguavoen
A VAR review chalked off a penalty awarded by referee Redouane Jiyed from Morocco in the 77th minute. Substitute Oghenekaro Etebo was so livid with the referee that he had to be shown a yellow for him to calm down.
By the 80th minute, the Black Stars had clearly run out of ideas as to how to break down the Super Eagles and were just launching long balls in behind the Eagles’ defence. After four minutes of added-on time, the derby was settled, at least for the next 92 hours before the second leg kicks off at the MKO Stadium in Abuja. Nigeria has a slight advantage but the away goals rule means the Black Stars will qualify with any score draw. (Premium Times)