The Super Eagles preparations for the CHAN 2014 tournament in South Africa next month continued in Abuja on Friday with its first practice match against newly promoted NNL side, Prisons FC of Abuja.
The match which was played at the FIFA Goal Project site of the National Stadium in Abuja had in attendance, Head Coach Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, who was returning to the squad after the World Cup draws in Brazil. At the end of the match the national team was 4-1 better than the Prisons team.
The game started at exactly 7:35am and was watched by a sizable crowd, who took time off activities at the Youth Games to catch a glimpse of their soccer stars. The players started the game by observing a minute silence in honour of departed South African icon, Nelson Mandela.
The Eagles went into immediate business after referee Aniete Ukoh, signalled the start of action, with the technical crew preferring to start with newly invited players like Isah Danladi in goal, Bright Esieme, Aliyu Abubakar, Gbolahan Salami, Ezekiel Mba and Kelechi Iheanacho among others. With only five minutes of play, the Eagles had forced three corner kicks.
In the seventh minute, Iheanacho’s clever chip for goal was handled by a Prisons player inside the 18yard box and Salami promptly dispatched it for Eagles first goal. Three minutes later it could have been two or more, but Abubakar and Ezekiel wasted the chances.
Salami had to be pulled out, in the 25th minute after a crunchy tackle from the rugged defence line of the Prisons team. Barnabas Imenger took over and acquitted himself well. But by now the opposing team had started to gain some confidence leading to a fierce shot that beat Danladi flat but was helped out by the woodworks before Chibuzor Madu hurriedly cleared off the line.
Then in a moment of magical inter-play, Imenger and Mohammed Ajia, startled the defence of Prisons for onrushing Abubakar to smash home from about 30yards. It was indeed a television goal in the 33minute. The Eagles led 2-0 at the interval.
Keshi and his crew changed the entire team for the second half, bringing in more experienced stars like goalie, Dan Akpeyi, Azubuike Egwueke, Sunday Mba, Benjamin Francis, Rabiu Ali and Eaglets’ Taiwo Awoniyi. Suprisingly, it was the Prisons side that took the initiative in the half by scoring from close range after a defence mix-up. Inuwa Ahmed was the goal scorer, as their midfield anchor, Stanley Emesi seemed to have seized that area from the Eagles with crisps passes and dribbles.
The goal seems to have been the tonic the Eagles needed as a corner kick taken by Kwambe was headed in by Ewguekwe, blocked by the goalkeeper, only for the same Egwuekwe to slot in with his left midway into the second half for Eagles third goal. Oghenekavro Etebor put the icing on the cake in the 83rd minute when a fine run from Kwambe found Awoniyi, who side-stepped a defender, before laying it perfectly for Etebor to hit home in the 85th minute.
Keshi said after the game that there was still a lot of work to be done and the technical crew will do its best to mould the team into a fearsome unit.