The two Nigerian stars represented their clubs from the blast of the referee’s whistle, but it was the former Akwa United ace who triumphed with the Czech Republic champions
Taiwo Awoniyi and Ubong Ekpai were involved on Thursday, but the latter finished on the winning team as Slavia began their Europa Conference League campaign with a 3-1 defeat of Union Berlin at the Sinobo Stadium.
A lengthy injury denied Super Eagles winger Peter Olayinka the chance to feature in the game for the Czech champions.
A frantic start to the match saw referee Fabio Verissimo hand both Awoniyi and Ekpai yellow cards within the opening half-hour.
Amid the upheaval, Slavia took the lead through Alexander Bah. After the ball rebounded to him in the 18-yard-box from a corner kick, Bah’s shot to the far post ended up in the back of the net.
Awoniyi, though, missed a glorious chance to draw level for the Germans shortly after. Knoche picked out Kruse with a beautiful searching ball in behind the Slavia defence. Kruse found Awoniyi next, but the former Liverpool man’s shot swept a yard off target.
And a tough afternoon got tricky for the visitors when Paul Jaeckel was sent off after receiving his second yellow card.
But Awoniyi thought he had pulled Union back in the tie ten minutes after the restart but his finish, off another Kruse assist, was ruled out for offside.
But the Bundesliga outfit had not lost any of their league and continental matches so far this term, and they showed again why they have been so irresistible to watch.
Manager Urs Fischer wrought his magic in the second half, withdrawing Awoniyi for Kevin Behrens, only for the substitute to go on and smash in a 70th-minute equaliser.
But there’s a reason Slavia are champions of the Czech Republic and Jindrich Trpisovsky’s men revealed it with two late goals from substitutes Jan Kuchta and Ivan Schranz.
Slavia, with the victory, go top of Group E, sending Union Berlin to the base of the table.
The duo of Feyenoord and Maccabi Haifa stay joint-second after playing out a goalless draw on Wednesday.