African Champions, Super Eagles Sunday in Addis Ababa boosted their chances of playing in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when they defeated boastful Ethiopia 2-1 to look too good to hoist Nigeria’s flag in the samba county in June.
And one man shot himself into reckoning, scoring a brace to calm down the frayed nerves of Nigerians, who were scared by the pin-point passes of the Ethiopians in the first half.
Emmanuel Emenike, a reliable striker who made it possible for Nigeria to win the African Cup of Nations in South Africa in February, brought his scoring prowess to bear when he fired in a cannon to cancel the lead established by the Ethiopians.
Emenike collected a pass from the middle and bullied himself forward before unleashing a ferocious shot that took refuge in the net. The jam-packed stadium was like a grave yard and the Nigerian supporters celebrated almost unheard in the sea of green and yellow jerseys of passionate Ethiopians.
Ethiopia’s first real chance of scoring came on 25 minutes as Salahdin Said skipped past two defenders before apparently prodding his shot over the line before Godfrey Oboabona clawed the ball away, but the referee adjudged the defender to have prevented the goal, controversially ruling the strike out and leaving the score still goalless.
Behailu Assefa had opened scoring for the Walya Antelopes in the 56th minute and the goal was greeted by rapturous celebration. In retrospect, Enyeama was to blame as he was ball-watching, only to react too late when he caught the ball inside the net.
However, after Emenike equalised and the minutes ticking away, it was Emenike again, who surged forward but was dragged down by Abebaw Butako and referee Néant Alioum pointed for a penalty.
The heart-beat of Nigerians could be be heard as Emenike stepped forward and calmly tucked the ball into the net, sending the goalkeeper to the wrong side of the post.
Stephen Keshi was mobbed by his assistants in celebration of a win, which if looked on account of what happened in the first half, could have been different story altogether.
As expected, Ethiopians excelled in the passing game and their agility running rings on the Nigerian players, who could not find their bearing. Like one Nigerian said, if passes were counted as goals, perhaps, Ethiopia could have joined the powerhouses of World football as they tickled souls with their tailor-measured passes.
In fairness to the Ethiopians, they made the African champions look ordinary in the first 45 minutes. Eagles three-man midfield of Mikel Obi, Ogenyi Onazi and Nnamdi Oduamadi was largely ineffective, allowing the Ethiopians, powered by Menyahel Teshome to dictate the pace of the game.
In the attack, Moses was a shadow of himself as he struggled to find his range even when he found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Jenal Tassew and blasted into the waiting hands of the keeper
But for the inspired substitutions of Coach Stephen Keshi, who had to take off Moses and Oduamadi for Brown Ideye and Nosa Igiebor, the outcome could have been different. The changes stabilized the Eagles midfield, allowing Emenike, the Fenerbahçe striker, to have a free hand to do the damages in the attack. Ahmed Musa was also on point on the right side of attack, disturbing the Ethiopian left-fullback.
As they Eagles soared higher, the fans of the Wayla Antelopes were left wondering what might have been. They had come thinking of victory as their Coach Sewet Bishaw had promised but left the stadium defeated, with the chances of qualifying for next Summer’s World Cup finals looking bleak and dented.