London Soccer Friendly. Nigeria 1 Senegal 1

by Bamidele Ogunberu Last updated on April 15th, 2018,

It took until just before half-time for Nigeria to enjoy their first real opportunity of the match through Iheanacho, the pacey forward somehow failing to hit the target with a low effort from almost point-blank range. Senegal broke the deadlock nine minutes into the second half, Everton man Gueye crossing from the right and Fenerbahce striker Sow on hand to score with a right-footed finish from inside the area. Kelechi Iheanacho’s late penalty cancelled out Moussa Sow’s opening goal as Nigeria earned a 1-1 draw with Senegal in an international friendly in Barnet on Thursday. Sow gave Senegal a deserved lead in the 54th minute and the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finalists had looked on course to hold out for the win. Nigeria may also have been unsettled before kick-off, amid reports Leicester City winger Ahmed Musa resigned as vice-captain in the lead up to the game.

Perhaps as a consequence, Senegal started strongly, Sow hitting the post early on from close range, while Cheikh Ndoye also called Nigeria goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi into action with a header from Idrissa Gueye’s corner.  Senegal bossed the midfield, Idrissa Gueye, as ever, presiding over it all with calm and quality, but Moussa Sow up front is far less mobile than Mane, and looked very ordinary until Daniel Akpeyi dropped a 53rd-minute corner into his path for the opener.

Nigeria, who didn’t qualify for AFCON 2017, have a theoretically exciting attacking core, but neither Leicester’s Musa nor Arsenal’s Iwobi are in form – as for Kelechi Iheanacho, he can barely get a game for Manchester City. Of the Premier League contingent only Wilfred Ndidi showed himself in a good light. Iwobi was particularly erratic, hooked on the hour after a performance notable far more for its errors than any incision in the No 10 role. Nigeria received a blow in the 25th minute, when Ogeni O**** was stretchered off injured, to be replaced by John Ogu.

Former Aston Villa midfielder Gueye almost went from provider to scorer moments later, poking just wide with his left foot.  The Senegal fans at The Hive Stadium got what they wanted with just over half an hour remaining, when star Liverpool forward Sadio Mane was introduced by head coach Aliou Cisse.

But it was Nigeria’s supporters who were celebrating late on, as Iheanacho atoned for his earlier miss by converting from the spot to level the scores with nine minutes to go after being fouled by Senegal shot-stopper Pape Ndiaye.

Both teams are in friendly action again next week, with Nigeria’s next match back in Barnet against Burkina Faso on Monday, while Senegal are due to tackle Ivory Coast in Paris on the same day.

At the final whistle, almost all of the 2,013 fans at Barnet’s Hive stadium charged onto the field. They weren’t celebrating the result – a drab draw played out with some commitment, but little quality – but simply the bizarre fact of the occasion. International football at Barnet. Most of the fans – some of whom were young, but many old enough that they might have known better – headed in search of Sadio Mane, who had come off the bench to a rapturous ovation on the hour.

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Bamidele Ogunberu

Bamidele Ogunberu

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