ADVERTISEMENT

Black Stars leave AFCON shadows behind to secure 0-0 draw with Nigeria

The moment the draw was made, this was a fixture nobody wanted but everybody loved. The conflicting nature of its relevance has been like Ghana’s relation with their West African counterparts Nigeria.

Black Stars at a training session

It’s always been war at first sight but love on full flight. Ghana and Nigeria have been through it from governance, movies, music, food and football. There is not a single line of discussion that does not ignite the characteristic comparison between the two.

So when the draw was made for a slot in the limited spaces for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, there could only be one fixture the continent looked up to - Ghana vs Nigeria dubbed the #JollofDerby.

Jollof has been a food that has seen the best and worse of arguments between Ghana and Nigeria and so had this fixture even before kick off of the first leg at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium.

AFCON 2021 provided the sweet spice to the already juicy encounter. The Black Stars of Ghana had had an awful run at Africa’s biggest international tournament getting knocked out in the group stages. Nigeria had been bullish in the group stages with the hope of winning it based on their early performance but had to bow out in the first round of knockout stages - the Round of 16.

ADVERTISEMENT

However, their lavish and confident performance as compared to the Black Stars’ AFCON run meant on paper for recent form, the Ghanaian national team were the underdogs.

But there are no underdogs when it comes to Ghana versus Nigeria.

And that proved the case in the first leg of the FIFA World Cup Qualifier Playoff game.

Ghana started the game against Nigeria at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium leaving their AFCON performance as a long-forgotten shadow of the past. The Black Stars players were fluid, sharp and looked like a team ready to give it all for a place at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Cheered by the rapturous shouts of the fans at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, Thomas Partey and his troops were charged to glory and it showed in their play.

ADVERTISEMENT

Early pressure on the Super Eagles saw the Black Stars get their first corner of the match within the first 3 minutes of the game. Despite hopes and dreams of the fans going off the roof through their shouts, the set-piece was nothing to write home about.

The home team dictated the run of play in the opening 15 minutes with Nigeria trying to find their feet.

In the 16th minute, Ghana had an injury scare as Jordan Ayew was run into by a Nigerian player. Jordan was fit enough to take the free-kick moments after the foul but overhit the ball for a goal kick in the Super Eagles’ favour.

Afena Gyan who had lived up to the expectations and anticipation of his appearance for the Black Stars nearly got his shining moment in the 19th minute but his attempted shot on goal was blocked before a Ghanaian player’s slip nearly gave Nigeria the first goal of the game.

Nigeria found their rhythm to mount some pressure on the Black Stars but the best chance before the end of the first half came Ghana’s way - a thunderous strike that was superbly saved by the Nigerian goalkeeper to end the first 45 minutes of the game at 0-0.

ADVERTISEMENT

The second half started with Nigeria on a different mission.

Within five minutes of play into the second half, Nigeria had put the Black Stars to a test. The Super Eagles continued with their best chance of the game.

The pressure saw the Ghanaians make some quick decisions that also resulted in Alexander Djiku getting the first yellow card of the game.

A low drive shot, Ghana’s best chance after play resumed was saved by the Nigerian goalkeeper triggering a reaction from Ghana’s suspended captain Andre Ayew in the stands.

The most controversial decision of the game came in the 76th minute. After an indecisive decision at the back by the Black Stars, the referee gave a penalty after a Black Stars player fell on the floor with the ball hitting his hand.

ADVERTISEMENT

Following a review using the VAR, the referee reversed his decision giving a free-kick to Ghana for a foul.

The two teams pushed more for the final 15 minutes while being cautious but none could find the back of the net.

After 90 minutes of play and 50% of the job done, neither Ghana nor Nigeria could find the back of the net.

Full-time scoreline, Ghana nil, Nigeria nil at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium. The second leg of the fixture will be played in Abuja on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

Enhance Your Pulse News Experience!

Get rewards worth up to $20 when selected to participate in our exclusive focus group. Your input will help us to make informed decisions that align with your needs and preferences.

I've got feedback!

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

Unblock notifications in browser settings.
ADVERTISEMENT

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: eyewitness@pulse.com.gh

ADVERTISEMENT