Ukraine V Nigeria: Rohr impressed by ‘New’ Super Eagles display

Ukraine V Nigeria: Rohr impressed by ‘New’ Super Eagles display

By Amaechi Agbo

Super Eagles head coach Gernot Rohr has expressed satisfaction with the performance of his team in Tuesday night’s 2-2 friendly draw against Ukraine at the Dnipro Arena.

The West Africans tormented the hosts defence in the first half and led 2-0 at the break courtesy of Joe Aribo and Victor Osimhen goals.

Debutant, Joe Aribo put the Super Eagles ahead in the fourth minute following an enterprising display of skills by Samuel Kalu.

Three minutes after the half hour-mark, the Super Eagles doubled their lead with Lille star Victor Osimhen scoring his first goal for the three-time African champion from the spot to further silence the home fans.

Ukraine finally broke the Super Eagles resistance in the 78th minute, thanks to Oleksandr Zinchenko’s brilliant movement and finish.

A minute later – 79th minute, Roman Yaremchuk netted a controversial hand-aided goal to draw the host level, and both sides battled to end it in stalemate in Dnipro.

Speaking at the post-match press briefing, Rohr described the match as a great one adding that the result was natural in view of the fact that the Ukrainians played at home.

“We saw a great match. Both teams played quality football. We dominated the first half, but Ukraine played at home, so the result is natural. After the break, they did much better.”

“Would I like to win Ukraine’s national team in an official tournament? No. This team is ranked 24th in the FIFA rankings, leading the way in its Euro-2020 qualifying group and is likely to reach the finals of the continent. ”

The German tactician further said that the game was a game of two halves noting that Super Eagles were dominant in the first half while their host took over proceedings in the second half.

“A wonderful test match. Both opponents demonstrated high-quality football. We won the first half, but Ukraine played at home, so the result is logical.

“After the break, the opponent did much better. Would I like to be grouped with the Ukrainian team in an official tournament? No.

Also speaking, his opposing coach, Andriy Shevchenko said that the Super Eagles were tougher opponent compared to Lithuania whom they played in their previous match.

Super Eagles next game is a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Benin in November.

Ukraine head coach Andriy Shevchenko has admitted that Nigeria’s Super Eagles were a tougher opponent than Lithuania after Tuesday’s international friendly which ended 2-2 draw at the Dnipro Arena.

Ukraine who have never lost to an Africa team in the last seven years were almost on the losing side before Oleksandr Zinchenko and Roman Yaremchuk cancelled Nigeria’s goals in the closing minutes of the match.

Nigeria were in the driving seat thanks to goals scored by Joe Aribo and Victor Osimhen in the first half.

“It is very difficult to find the ideal at all. The team is moving in the right direction. It is impossible to compare today’s match with the previous one against Lithuania,” Shevchenko told reporters after the game.

“It is a completely different team made up of players who play in different championships. But today’s game was very important, we received a lot of valuable information.”

A relatively new breed Super Eagles team came close to bringing down Ukraine’s ‘Blue and Yellow’ at the Dnipro Arena on Tuesday before suffering loss of concentration that saw Ukraine tie the game 2-2 with two goals in 45 seconds.

Debutant Joseph Ayodele-Aribo put the seal on a frenetic beginning at the 31,000 –capacity venue when he cleverly connected home a cross by Alex Iwobi after great work by Samuel Kalu had left the Ukrainian defence in tatters. In the event, the Glasgow Rangers FC of Scotland forward became the 60th player to score right on international debut for Nigeria.

Two minutes later, Samuel Chukwueze drove into the home team’s vital area but saw his shot saved by goalkeeper Andriy Lunin. In the 12th minute, goalkeeper Francis Uzoho read the Ukrainian foremen well enough to intercept what would have been a dangerous situation.

Halfway into the half, Nigeria should have made it two as Iwobi’s chip found Ayodele-Aribo, who connected with a diving header that took all of Lunin’s awareness to push over the bar. From the corner, Osimhen headed powerfully towards goal but Lunin again thwarted. Eleven minutes later, the Eagles were two goals up, as Osimhen lashed into the far corner from the penalty spot after Samuel Kalu was upended in the box.

In the 42nd minute, Uzoho made a terrific double save from Oleksandr Zinchenko, and three minutes later Iwobi could not really find Osimhen to make it three as Nigeria swept forward once more.

In the second half, Iwobi wasted a glorious chance in the 48th minute as he dragged his shot too wide of Lunin’s post when clear on goal, and four minutes later, Nigeria should have been given a second penalty as Kalu was hacked in the box.

Semi Ajayi made a decisive touch to deny Victor Kovalenko and Roman Yaremchuk in the 57th minute, just after Chukwueze sold his pass too long to Osimhen who lurked in the other end’s vital area. Two minutes later, a brilliant solo run by Chukwueze ended with him once more placing the ball too wide of goal, with Lunin flat-footed.

Andriy Yarmolenko, Yaremchuk, Zinchenko, Viktor Tsygankov and Mykola Matvyenko all made efforts to break down the Nigerian defence with no luck. Just after the hour, Uzoho showed why he should have been the one in goal for Nigeria at the Cup of Nations in Egypt, when he punched away a 20 –yard free kick that was all too similar to the one Riyad Mahrez buried for Algeria in the AFCON semi-final.

However, the home team got lucky in the 78th minute, as the dangerous Zinchenko got behind the defence and shot past Uzoho.

Right from the kick-off after the goal, loss of concentration handed the advantage to the home team, and Yaremchuk got the ball past Uzoho, though he appeared to have scored with the hand and the effort should have been ruled off.

On the dot of 90 minutes, Uzoho punched away another fierce, 20-yard free kick.

Super Eagles next match is against Benin Republic in the 2021 AFCON qualifier in November.    

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