Ghana held Nigeria to a goalless draw in the first leg of the 2022 Fifa World Cup final qualifying fixture on Friday.
As expected in a fully-packed Baba Yara Sports Stadium, the Black Stars made an aggressive start to the encounter but the Super Eagles were solid to resist the hosts’ attacking threats.
In the absence of suspended Andre Ayew, Roma youngster Felix Ohene-Gyan led Ghana’s attack while Lorient’s Innocent Bonke joined Joe Aribo in Nigeria’s midfield and Leon Balogun formed a partnership with William Troost-Ekong at the centre of the defence.
With the hosts dominant in the opening minutes, the game was briefly stopped on the half hour-mark for medical personnel to treat Osimhen following a challenge from Ghana’s Mohammed Kudus.
Two minutes later, the Black Stars had the clearest chance in the first half with Abdul Fatawu Issahaku’s shot from outside the penalty area but it was parried for a corner-kick by Uzoho.
The first 45 minutes ended with the Black Stars recording more shots and set-pieces but they lacked the cutting edge to go ahead.
10 minutes after the restart, Simon delivered the Super Eagles’ brightest chance after finding space on the left flank but his effort could not beat goalkeeper Jojo Wollacott.
In the 59th minute, Eguavoen made tactical changes with Joe Aribo and Simon replaced by Brentford’s Frank Onyeka and Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis respectively.
Nigeria were forced to make another substitution after Bonke was stretchered off in the 61st minute which made way for Oghenekaro Etebo to come into action.
Ghana once again had a chance to break the deadlock in the 71st minute after Kudus burst through on goal from the right, but his shot was saved by Uzoho for a corner-kick.
It was a dramatic final 15 minutes as the referee awarded Nigeria a penalty for a handball in the 18-yard box but it was overturned after a VAR review for Ghana’s free-kick.
Disappointed by the decision, Etebo protested to the referee and he was shown a yellow card.
The draw leaves Nigeria and Ghana with all to play for in the return fixture that is billed for the Moshood Abiola Stadium on March 29.
The Super Eagles are aiming to make their seventh World Cup appearance in Qatar while Ghana have only featured in three editions of the tournament (2006, 2010, 2014).
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This post was originally published on June 10, 2022.