The Super Eagles of Nigeria held the Black Stars of Ghana to a goalless draw at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi.
A feisty battle, the game lived up to hype as both nations matched each other physically.
The Ghanaians threatened the Nigerian defence on occasions with youngsters Felix Afena-Gyan and Fatawu Issahaku impressing in the game.
Nigeria’s introductions in the game gave fans a direction as to what the team holds from the bench with Emmanuel Dennis, Oghenekaro Etebo, Calvin Bassey and Frank Onyeka all putting up decent showings in the game.
Ghana also looked to have put their AFCON woes behind them as they stood toe to toe against the Nigerians, encouraged by an overpacked stadium in Kumasi.
These are the five things we learnt from the game;
- Uzoho can hold his own
Francis Uzoho had one of his most composed performances in a Super Eagles shirt against Ghana. The forced absence of Maduka Okoye meant the Omonia Nicosia goalkeeper was selected to man the goal for Nigeria and he had a very decent performance.
The highlight of his game was a shot he parried from Fatawu Issahaku. Efforts of the kind have beaten many goalkeepers in the past and it was nothing routine.
His calm demeanour also helped the team settle well into the game as Nigeria withstood a flurry of Ghanaian profession early on in the game.
2. Troost-Ekong is match rusty
The Watford defender struggled all night to cope with the pace of Jordan Ayew and Felix Afena-Gyan. While his duels against Ayew still gave a glimmer of hope about his chances, his rustiness was self-exposing all night against the pacy and young Ghanaian attackers.
It took the intervention of his defensive partner Leon Balogun on a number of occasions to spare the Super Eagles’ blushes.
The Rangers defender’s last-ditch tackles were vital to helping Nigeria avoid defeat in Kumasi.
3. Nigerian defenders still struggle with long balls
In the first half, the Ghanaian defence and midfielders lofted many passes over the Nigerian defence with one of those occasions almost leading to a miscommunication between Balogun and Uzoho.
The Super Eagles dealt with balls floated into their box with care and this ensured they were caught napping in some situations.
Nigeria must be more wary of this weakness coming into the second leg in Abuja, just three days from now.
4. The Super Eagles have a good bench
On Friday evening, Eguavoen made five changes to the Super Eagles as Oghenekaro Etebo, Calvin Bassey, Ademola Lookman, Emmanuel Dennis and Frank Onyeka all got introduced.
Their introduction also breathed air into Nigeria in the game with Etebo bringing some calmness to the middle.
Dennis may also have shown why he should be considered for a starter’s berth as Bassey also had a decent debut.
Lookman looked overwhelmed in the game but is backed to impress in less hostile conditions.
5. Osimhen needs viable servicemen
Osimhen struggled greatly against Ghana as he was often caught in tussles against the central defensive pairing of Daniel Amartey and Alexander Djiku.
In spite of his constant, albeit difficult attempts to create space and work out something, the service he got from Iheanacho, Simon and Chukwueze were not good enough. The attacker would need greater support in the return fixture in Abuja if he will be trusted to deliver goals.