The Super Eagles began their quest to qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon with a 2-1 victory over the Republic of Benin.
Goals from Victor Osimhen and Samuel Kalu secured the win for Nigeria after Stephane Sessegnon had given the Squirrels a shock lead in the second minute.
Soccernet’s Chief Editor, Joba Ogunwale was live on ground to monitor proceedings, and these are his takeaways from the match.
Joe Aribo’s Unfazed By The Occasion: Although he has played and scored in his first two games for the Super Eagles, this is the first time Aribo will be playing on home soil.
There were fears nerves could get to the 23-year-old Rangers man who is visiting Nigeria for just the second time. However, Aribo showed none of that as he gave a flawless performance despite arriving on the eve of the match.
Playing in a midfield trio that had Wilfried Ndidi and Alex Iwobi, Aribo was the best among them. He was tidy in possession, adapted easily to the physicality of African football. He was also confident on the ball and was seen asking for the ball regularly from his teammates.
The former Charlton man could have even had a goal to his name but was thwarted by the Benin goalkeeper on two occasions.
— Joba (@olumcjobson) November 12, 2019
Away from the pitch, the 23-year-old nice and willing to take pictures was nice, courteous and willing to take pictures with fans. And yes, I got not just one but three pictures for myself.
Half Filled Stadium: Uyo has been the home of the Super Eagles since 2015 and they have enjoyed wonderful since they started playing there.
However, yesterday’s support was below par as the stadium was filled with empty seats at kickoff. It was not until half-time that the stadium was half-filled.
— Joba (@olumcjobson) November 14, 2019
The support was also not encouraging from fans in the stadium. The stadium announcer had to announce to the fans to cheer the team when the team appeared for warm-up, but that did not change anything as they did not oblige.
Super Eagles training before the game pic.twitter.com/voVLqti3kO
— Joba (@olumcjobson) November 14, 2019
However, the stadium erupted when Samuel Kalu scored the winner with chants of the famous “ole ole” song. But the fans will need to do better in subsequent games.
— Joba (@olumcjobson) November 13, 2019
Nevertheless, Uyo is still the best stadium to host Super Eagles games with Gernot Rohr confirming that in his post-match conference.
Aside from the long-distance between Super Eagles hotel and the stadium, the conditions are perfect. The empty stadium had to do with the timing of the game.
Iwobi Disappoints Again: Alex Iwobi was given the chance to shine in the No 10 role, but once again he failed to convince fans he is the attacking midfielder Nigeria is looking for.
At some moments in the game, he was afraid of going into challenges, while my grandma can shoot better than some of his efforts on goal.
Although he showed some little bit of creativity with his passing, he will need to raise his game if he wants to hold on to that No 10 spot.
Semi Ajayi Urpsups Kenneth Omeruo: I asked Ekong prior to the game if playing with different centre backs affects the team’s stability.
He said no, that it is a good thing to have competition for places in the team. Omeruo was Ekong’s partner at the Nations Cup, but having missed the last two games, Semi Ajayi seems to have taken his place.
The West Brom player was once again selected to partner Ekong in defence, and he did not put a foot wrong. If he continues in this form, then Omeruo faces a difficult challenge in winning his place back.
Samuel Kalu, Victor Osimhen And Chukwueze Show The Future Is Bright: Along with Aribo, the trio were Nigeria’s best performers on the night. Osimhen was a thorn in the flesh of the Benin defenders, and he capped up a fine performance with a well-taken penalty.
Kalu was also brilliant on the left and it was his brilliant solo goal that sealed the victory. Chukwueze was dangerous on the right as usual, although his decision making still needs polishing.
With the combined age of the trio just 62, Nigeria’s attack is set to be a nightmare for opposition’s defence in years to come.