The Super Eagles of Nigeria put up solid second half performance to beat Ghana’s Black Stars B 2-0 at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium yesterday to qualify alongside the host from Group A into the semi-finals of the WAFU Cup of Nations tournament.
The Nigerians needed a win to qualify, as a win for Mali against Guinea in the other group fixture at Elmina could have complicated issues for the Super Eagles.
With the Ghanaians already securing a place in the knockout phase, the Nigerian had a lot to play for beyond the important bragging rights associated with clashes between the two rival teams.
Second half goals from Anthony Okpotu and Peter Moses were what Nigeria needed to end Ghana’s unbeaten run and book a place in the penultimate round at the expense of Mali who held Guinea to a 1-1 draw at the Nduom Stadium.
Nigeria looked more purposeful from the opening half as they took the game to the confident Ghanaians backed by a capacity crowd. The Eagles gave early indication about their intention as they fought for every ball and covered every blade of grass on the field but lacked the patience and killer instincts to convert their first scoring opportunity as early as the sixth minute when John Friday blasted wide from close range.
The physical and fast-paced game, which cost Ghana their skipper Isaac Twumasi and midfielder Gideon Waja through injuries, got the Ghanaian defenders doing extra work to keep the Nigerian attackers at bay. In the 13th minute, centre-back Vincent Atinga was forced to clear a goal-bound shot by Anthony Okpotu after outwitting his marker and Ghana goalkeeper Joseph Addo.
The Ghanaian players were equally guilty of wasted chances with midfielder Ebenezer Lomotey and arrowhead Felix Addo both failing to capitalise on the good chances that fell their way.
During the scoreless first half, Ghana’s duo of Waja and Winful Cobbinah combined effectively in midfield to break Nigeria’s attack and initiate moves for coach Maxwell Konadu’s side. However, when Waja suffered a 44th minute injury and was stretchered off to be replaced by Kelvin, Black Stars B effectively lost the midfield battle to their opponents who began to dominate the exchanges,
Two minutes into the second half, substitute Patrick Razak had his first crack at goal but failed to get the ball at the back of the net.
Moments later, the game turned on its head as Okpotu stunned the stadium into silence, except for a few Nigerian fans in the stands, when he opened the scoring after outwitting his marker to fire the ball past goalkeeper Addo in the 54th minute.
Ghana had hardly recovered from the opener when Moses capitalised on a poor clearance to fire home a 20-yard shot through the Black Stars B defence which caught the goalkeeper off guard to give his side a commanding 2-0 lead which they held on for a famous win and a ticket to the knockout phase of the sub-regional competition.