Nigeria’s Super Eagles ran away 2-1 winners over the Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa on Sunday, putting themselves in the driver’s seat of their elimination tie for next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Emmanuel Emenike’s brace (67th, 90th penalty) gave the Eagles victory over the Walya Antelopes.
The Ethiopians had scored first in the 57th minute through Assefa, a deserved goal, considering the impressive play by the hosts right from the start.
The Super Eagles, who were visited by President Jonathan Goodluck ahead of the all-important match, conquered the high altitude of Ethiopia with the victory as they signified a firm interest in making a fifth appearance in the World Cup in Brazil.
Emmanuel Emenike was the hero for the Super Eagles as he scored the equalizer and the winner in the 90th minute. Ethiopia had gone ahead in the 57th minute when Vincent Enyeama mis-judged a cross from Assefa and the referee, Aliou Neant from Cameroon, ruled that the ball had crossed the line.
Goal reported that the first half started with the Ethiopians on the front foot with their fans howling and making a terrific atmosphere. And it took just two minutes for the Eagles to concede a corner kick that was quickly followed by another.
Emmanuel Emenike then drove the Eagles forward and won a corner kick in the fourth minute. The first shot in anger came in the eighth minute but No. 20 shot wide.
After persistent fouling on Victor Moses, Tesfaye was shown the first yellow card of the match in the 12th minute.
Nnamdi Oduamadi then missed the first gilt-edged chance when he mis-kicked Emenike’s cross. Ethiopia then went forward and Saladin Said thought he had scored but Godfrey Oboabona made a fantastic clearance to keep the match at 0-0.
Ahmed Musa had a half volley smothered by Butako and then coach Ternat Bishaw called for a water break, a call that was really confusing to the visitors.
Adane Girma should have scored for the Antelopes in the 38th minute when a loose ball from Moses fell to him but after dribbling three Nigeria defenders, he shot wildly over.
Girma had another chance in the second minute of added time but Enyeama made a great save.
The second half was not as frantic as it was in the first half and the first chance came for the Antelopes in the 55th minute but Enyeama read the bounce very well and cleared the danger.
The Ethiopians then scored a goal that could best be described as a fluke because Enyeama mis-judged a cross by Assefa and the referee ruled that the ball had crossed the line before the Nigerian goalkeeper claimed it.
Stephen Keshi made changes bringing in Nosa Igiebor for Nnamdi Oduamadi in the 63rd minute as the goal woke up the Nigerians who then went in search of the equalizer.
The Super Eagles should have equalised in the 62nd minute when Moses went one-on-one with the goalkeeper but goalkeeper Tassew did well to save at the feet of the Liverpool man. Minutes later, Keshi withdrew Moses, who had an average game and brought on Brown Ideye.
Their equalising goal came in the 67th minute when Emenike shot a thunderbolt from outside the box. Afterwards, the Nigerians went on the offensive.
Musa hit the post in the 77th minute off a terrific pass by Mikel. Nigeria went ahead for the first time in the encounter in the 88th minute when Emenike was dragged down in the box for a clear penalty.
The Fenerbahce player dusted himself off and cooly dispatched the penalty to give the Super Eagles the victory and one leg in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The second leg will be held in Calabar on November 16 at the U.J Esuene Stadium but the Nigerians will believe that they hold all the aces.
The Eagles had so far remained the only away victors in the African playoff, which no doubt would make the return leg in Calabar next month easier for the Eagles.
However, some football stakeholders in Lagos area expressed satisfaction at the eventual outcome of the match.
Paul Hamilton, a former Super Eagles Coach attributed the slow pace of the game by the Eagles to the high altitude in Ethiopia.
He said the match was exciting and at the same time disturbing, because of the tension it generated among its fans.
“We were slow in the first half and in the second half the players got their groove back and showed class over the Ethiopians,’’ he said.
A former Golden Eaglets Chief Coach, Henry Nwosu, said the Eagles must be cautions during the return leg as it could be tougher, because the Ethiopians would want to come out hard.
“We need to be more coordinated and defensive, so as not to concede any goal during the return leg. There is no doubt that it will be a home match, that we have greater advantage, if we properly utilise our chances,’’ Nwosu said.
Fanny Amun, a former Coach of the Golden Eaglets said the National team did not disappoint.
“They should complete what they have started by ensuring a good finish in Calabar,’’ the former Eaglets coach said.