Mitrovic’s Brace Crash Eagles Flight in London


Duro Ikhazuagbe

Two second half goals by Fulham forward, Aleksandar Mitrovic, gave Serbia 2-0 victory over Super Eagles last night in London. It is Nigeria’s second warm up game ahead of the World Cup 2018 in Russia.

The defeat is the second for Nigeria’s Franco-German coach, Gernot Rohr, out of the 14 games played by the three-time African champions under his watch.

The under-strength Eagles, without the commanding influence of John Mikel Obi and dependable central defender, Leon Balogun, were simply poor on the night.

The match which the handlers were hoping to use to sample the playing style of Nigeria’s second Group D game against Croatia at the World Cup in summer, largely exposed the inadequacy of the defenders and midfielders.

Serbia’s much experienced players with class act proved too much to be handled by the backline that featured Bryan Idowu, Chidozie Awaziem who stood in for injured Leon Balogun, William Ekong, and Tyronne Ebuehi also starting at right back instead of Abdullahi Shehu. They left upcoming Francis Uzoho largely at the mercy of the sharp Serbian forward line.

Wilfred Ndidi and Ogenyi Onazi were perhaps Nigeria’s outstanding players of the night, as they were involved severally and in all sectors on the turf at The Hive, giving as much as they got.

Uzoho made the first save on eight minutes as he palmed away Mitrovic’s shot close to the edge of the box.

The barrage of attack continued against Eagles with a few attempts by Victor Moses and the Nigerian forward line to even up upfront.

On resumption for the second half, Odion Ighalo replaced Moses but the substitution appeared ineffective as it did not add any bite to the potency of the Nigerian attack force. Eagles lost the playmaking steam from the left of the channel, though the China-based forward was bright in the middle.

Former Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic had a good chance to put Serbia ahead on 60 minutes after he was left unmarked from a corner only to see his strike end up in the hands of Uzoho.

But Mitrovic found space in the box to score two goals. to condemn Nigeria to defeat. The lively Mitrovic stabbed home the opening goal on the 68th minutes after good attack move from the left. He got his second on 81st minutes to take the game beyond the Eagles.

TV replays showed Serbia’s 13th minute ball scramble inside Eagles box actually crossed the goalline before Uzoho retrieved it but centre referee Craig Pawson waved play on.

After the 1-0 victory over Poland last Friday and this defeat to Serbia, Eagles next game in the pre-FIFA World Cup build-up is the send forth match against Democratic Republic of Congo in Nigeria on Monday, 28th May, to be followed by a prestige game against England’s Three Lions at Wembley five days later.

EAGLES STARTING XI (4-3-3) – Francis Uzoho – Tyronne Ebuehi, Brian Idowu (Ola Aina 85), Chidozie Awaziem, William Troost-Ekong – Wilfred Ndidi, Ogenyi Onazi (John Ogu 77), Joel Obi (Moses Simon 77) – Alex Iwobi (Junior Ajayi 88), Victor Moses (Odion Ighalo 46), Ahmed Musa