Tunisia Fight Back to Hold Nigeria 1-1 in Austria Friendly

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By Duro Ikhazuagbe

Nigeria’s Super Eagles were forced to a one-all draw last night by Tunisia in the second FIFA friendly window played in Austria. The game was an improvement over the team’s 0-1 loss to African champions Algeria last Friday.

Leicester City’s forward, Kelechi Iheanacho fired Nigeria into the lead with his well-drilled shot inside the box after two misdirected shots by Samuel Chukwueze and Zaidu Sanusi earlier in the game.

After collecting a pass with three Carthage Eagles defenders crowding him, Iheanacho turned around Dylane Brown and fired with his left foot past goalkeeper Ben Mustapha Farouk for Nigeria’s only goal of the clash in the 21st minute.

It was the Leicester man’s ninth goal for the senior national team since graduating from the Under-17 rank.

The Tunisians responded well to the Nigerian advantage with Captain Youssef Msakni, Wabil Khazri, Issama Haddadi and Mohamed Drajer all posing all sorts of problems for the Super Eagles defence with their pace, trickery and telepathic passes.

But the changes made by Coach Gernot Rohr appeared to have worked as Kenneth Omeruo was at the heart of the central defence along with Leon Balogun while with new boy Kevin Akpoguma who made his debut against Algeria last Friday was soaking up the heat in the right back.

He started in place of Tyronne Ebuehi while another new boy Zaidu Sanusi kept the watch from the left back.

However, in the 29th minute, Iheanacho wasted the chance to put Nigeria up by two goals when his timid penalty kick flew into the hands of the Tunisian goalkeeper.

Farouk had upended Ahmed Musa as he controlled a through ball by Alex Iwobi in the box to earn Nigeria the well deserved penalty kick.

As the clock closed in on the first half, Drajer saw his shot from a corner fly away, a sweet move by Moses Simon and Iheanacho was decoded by an alert rearguard of the Carthage Eagles While Maduka Okoye in Goal for Nigeria saved from Khazri.

But there was still time for a twist, as the effervescent Hamza Rafia ghosted past Omeruo on the line and gifted Drajer to hammer into the net for Tunisia’s equalizer.

The second half was no less interesting. Iheanacho rose to meet the ball from a corner but headed narrowly over, and at the other end, Drajer side-netted. Musa, on his 93rd senior cap for Nigeria, looked good to put Nigeria ahead in the 67th minute but he lacked the pace to meet up with a good pass from Iheanacho.

Both teams showed grit and intention, with some eye-catching touches, good marking, adroit use of space and some individual brilliance.

On the dot of time, the Carthage Eagles came quite close to nicking it, but Okoye, winning only his third cap for Nigeria, was alert enough to tip over the bar a tricky lob by Naim Sliti.

Although strange as the tactical formation of Rohr’s team of the night looked, two more new players (Cyril Dessers and Chidera Ejuke) had their debut to make a total of six additional qualities to the Super Eagles.

Zaidu Sanusi, Frank Onyeka, Kevin Akpoguma and Samson Tijani took theirs against Algeria earlier on Friday night.

Super Eagles vs Tunisia: Maduka Okoye – Zaidu Sanusi (Jamilu Collins 66), Kevin Akpoguma, Kenneth Omeruo, Leon Balogun (Chidozie Awaziem 57) – Semi Ajayi – Alex Iwobi, Samuel Chukwueze (Chidera Ejuke 78), Moses Simon, Kelechi Iheanacho – Ahmed Musa (Cyriel Dessers 72)