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CHAN Qualifiers: Nigeria bow to Ghana after 4-5 penalty shootout; It wasn’t easy – Ghana’s team coach, captain

Two goals in the final 14 minutes by the resilient Nigeria Super Eagles B team leveled aggregate score at 2-2 vs Ghana’s Black Galaxies to force Penalty shootouts at the MKO Abiola Stadium Abuja on Saturday evening.

Ghana began the Championship of African Nations – CHAN qualification second leg tie boasting of a 2-0 aggregate advantage from the 1st leg.

After labouring for 76 minutes, the Coach Salisu Yusuf tutored Super Eagles B finally got the opening goal through Zulkifi before NPFL top scorer Charles Akuneto completed the comeback in the 94th minute to force a shootout.

The Eagles fell short in the ensuing shootout, missing one kick to Ghana’s 100% conversion. A 4-5 result means the Ghanaians qualified for the Algeria 2023 CHAN at the expense of the Nigerian team.

Nigeria will thus miss a second straight CHAN appearance after also falling off on the road to Cameroon 2019.

Ghana on their part will return to the Championship of African Nations after missing the last three editions.

By Victor Okoye

Abuja, Sept. 4, 2022

Bismark Kobby-Mensah, the Assistant Coach of Ghana’s Black Galaxies, on Saturday said his team did not have it easy beating Nigeria to qualify for the 2022 African Nations Championship (CHAN).

The CHAN qualifying final round second leg match played at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja saw Nigeria scoring two goals to level 2-2 on goals aggregate.

Ghana won the first leg in Cape Coast 2-0 on Sunday and opted for a contain-and-counter strategy in Abuja.

However, two well-taken second half goals by Muhammed Zulkifilu and Chijioke Akuneto drew the fixture level and meant the lottery of penalty kicks would decide the winners.

Substitute Maurice Chukwu saw his penalty kick (Nigeria’s third) hit the crossbar in the shootout to hand Ghana the ticket to January’s 7th CHAN finals in Algeria.

Kobby-Mensah who spoke to newsmen during a post-match conference expressed joy at his team’s victory, admitting however that it was a very difficult match against Nigeria.

“It’s a great feeling because for some years now we have not been able to qualify.

“Coming here and playing against Nigeria, even though we took a good lead from the first leg, which was not a commanding one, wasn’t easy. This is because we know Nigeria are a very good side.

“So, coming here we knew it was always going to be difficult and it was indeed a pulsating encounter. However, I think that we gave some easy goals away.

“But at the end of the day, we just wanted to qualify, and we have done just that, and we are all happy,” he said.

The coach recalled that the team’s head coach Annor Walker had predicted prior to the second leg encounter that it was going to be difficult for Nigeria to turn things around.

He noted that their strategy was to defend very deep and catch the Super Eagles on the counter.

“Yes, we defended well and struggled at the latter stages of the game. But, at the end of the day, we wanted to qualify, and we have done that.

“Football is like that sometimes, but what is important is the end result. The end result in this case is that Ghana have taken their place in Algeria,” Kobby-Mensah said.

Also, Gladson Awako, the Ghanaian team’s captain, noted that it was not easy right from the onset and throughout the preparation period, adding that his team really deserved to qualify.

“I believe we really worked hard for this and deserve to be in the 2022 CHAN tournament.

“It’s been eight years now that we have not been able to qualify for this particular tournament.

“But we spoke to ourselves as a group and promised to work on our mentality and go ahead to change the narrative.

“We worked so hard and I think we have achieved what we planned. I am very happy to be leading this victorious team. It’s not about me alone, but it is a teamwork.

“We did this together with the technical crew, the management, as well as our football federation,” he said.

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