Flying Eagles Coach John Obuh
By Hammed Shittu
Nigeria’s Flying Eagles Sunday grabbed the ticket to next year’s African Youth Championships in Algeria where they will defend the title they won in South Africa last year.
The national Under-20 team defeated South Africa 3-1 in Ilorin to qualify 4-2 aggregate following the 1-1 result they posted in the first leg away.
Midfield impresario, Abduljeleel Ajagun, one of Coach John Obuh’s players from the U-17 squad that finished as runners-up at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009, hit a first-half brace before setting up top striker Alhaji Gero for a third and tie-determining goal early in the second period.
The petite playmaker was fittingly selected the Most Valuable Player, picking up oil magnate, Ifeanyi Ubah’s laid-on-line $2,000.
Chelsea FC of England boy, Kenneth Omeruo, on loan at Dutch top side ADO Den Haag, and Turkey-based Mohammed Goyi Aliyu, both also from Obuh’s U-17 side, held firm at the back while the delicate Chidi Osuchukwu pulled the strings effortlessly in midfield.
It was hard going but Ajagun, team’s top scorer in the qualifying campaign with five goals, was at the right place to slam past goalkeeper Gershin Kock with seven minutes left in the first half.
Celebrations were rudely cut short as the Amajita equalised straight from the re-start, only for Ajagun to again slam into the top right corner on the dot of half time.
Seven minutes into the second half, Ajagun cleverly carved an opening from a sweeping move and set up Gero beautifully. The big striker made no mistake.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Sunday heaped praises on the Flying Eagles, for the qualification.
NFF President Aminu Maigari, who joined Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed at the State Box for the big duel, said the Flying Eagles, six-time African champions, deserve credit for an inspired performance.
“I am truly impressed with the performance of the team, and I can tell you that the NFF as a body and the entire Nigeria football family are impressed.
“I will use this opportunity to pledge that the NFF will give the team all the support to prepare very well for the defence of its title in Algeria next year,” assured Maigari.
The coach of the Amajita of South Africa, Mr. Solly Luvhengo in a post match interview, commended the skills of both his teams.
He however said the weather was not favourable for his team stressing that his boys were doing well but caved in when the goals started coming in from Flying Eagles.
“I think for the first 20 minutes, the boys played very well. But when Flying Eagles started scoring goals, we became jittery.
“The impact of the weather was another factor. It was crazy. You cannot play football well with this weather,” Luvhengo said.
Flying Eagles Coach,Mr. John Obuh said he warned his players to be active till the end of the match as a result of the style of play adopted by the Amajita which he said was very unique and required tact to handle.
He also said the Amajita displayed commendable soccer skills but added that his players were equal to the task and went ahead and defeated the visiting South African players.
He, however, said the goal conceded by the Flying Eagles during the second leg could have been avoided if the players had not left their positions while celebrating for the opening goal.
“Such a mistake comes ones in a while. FIFA said that players have right to celebrate their goal. They celebrated the first goals and we conceded that goal. We made that mistake because they should have returned to their positions,” Obuh said.