Nigerian wonderkid George Ilenikhena has wasted no time making an impact after joining Belgian Jupiler Pro League titans Royal Antwerp.
The 16-year-old striker, who completed a record €6 million move from French club Amiens a few hours ago, showcased his talent by netting the solitary goal in his team’s first pre-season friendly.
Coach Mark van Bommel granted playing time to 23 individuals as Royal Antwerp faced off against Lierse from the Challenger Pro League.
Despite dominating possession in the first half, RAFC struggled to break down the well-organized visitors, resulting in limited chances.
Arbnor Muja came close with a wayward header, while Vincent Janssen’s powerful shot was thwarted by the familiar figure of goalkeeper Teunckens.
Lierse also made sporadic appearances in the Antwerp penalty area, but Jean Butez, RAFC’s shot-stopper, was rarely tested. The first half concluded without any goals, leaving the scoreline at 0-0.
Following the break, van Bommel introduced 11 new players, primarily comprising young talents guided by experienced goalkeeper Ortwin De Wolf. Just three minutes into the second half, Victor Udoh squandered a golden opportunity, failing to beat the opposing goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation.
However, after 20 minutes, Glodi Mbuyi-Mbayo surged forward and was illegally brought down inside the box, earning a penalty for his team.
New recruit George Ilenikhena displayed composure beyond his years as he confidently converted the spot-kick, registering his first goal for the reigning champions and propelling the scoreline to 1-0.
Eight minutes later, Lierse were also awarded a penalty, which they converted to level the game at 1-1.
Despite RAFC’s young squad impressing with their fluid and fearless play, they couldn’t find the winning goal. Glodi came closest with a solo effort but was unable to find the back of the net.
Consequently, Royal Antwerp’s opening exhibition match concluded in a 1-1 draw.
The team will face AEK Athens from Greece in their second friendly next week at De Bosuil, with the match taking place behind closed doors, similar to today’s encounter.
Ilenikhena will hope to be a big hit for Antwerp when the new league season kicks off later this month.