The Super Eagles of Nigeria team B comprising mainly of home-based players and some fringe foreign-based professionals took on Spanish club Atletico Madrid in the inaugural edition of GOtv MAX Cup at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo on Tuesday evening.
The Nigerian side looked sharp and co-ordinated in their play right from the blast of the whistle despite just having three days of training and with most of the players playing together for the first time.
The Super Eagles created the first chance of the match when Nigerian captain and right back Usman Mohammed played Samad Khadiri through on goal with only the goalkeeper to beat but the Lobi Stars striker shot directly at the goalkeeper and the ball was saved by Jan Oblak in goal for Los Rojiblancos.
The Nigerian team continued to play exciting football to the admiration of the crowd and it was not surprising when the Eagles took the lead in the 31st through Arsenal youngster Kelechi Nwakali, who fired an exquisite shot right from the edge of the box after some fancy foot works, Jan Oblak in goal for Atletico Madrid had no answer to the shot as it sealed into the net to give Nigeria a well-deserved lead.
The goal stunk Atletico into life as they probed the Nigerian defence for an equaliser, it didn’t take too long for the Spanish club to level the score.
The equaliser came two minutes after they went behind, Angel Correa was played through on goal by Ghanian international Thomas Partey and he fired home a shot that Femi Thomas in goal for Nigeria could do nothing about.
The first half ended 1-1, and on the resumption of the second half, the coach of Atletico Madrid Diego Simone made some changes which included the introduction of El Nino, Fernando Torres to thunderous cheers and applause by the vociferous Uyo crowd.
Atletico Madrid played much better in the second period as they controlled the midfield and had more possession of the ball and in the 65th minute, their dominance counted as Fernando Torres headed home a corner taken by Angel Correa from the left flank.
Nigerian left-back Kelechi Duru misjudged the flight of the ball and El Nino steered the ball into the net with a great header from inside the box, the goal sent the Uyo crowd into a frenzy as they chanted the name of the Spanish striker.
The Nigerian coach Salisu Yusuf was forced to make some changes after his team went behind and this included the introduction of Usman Mohammed. The substitution yielded dividend in the 80th minute as Usman Mohammed made mincemeat of Atletico’s defender Montero.
The Sarpsborg 08 midfielder turned the defender inside out before firing past Werner in goal for the Spanish team. it was a great goal that got the whole stadium including Super Eagles stars on the stands applauding the beauty of the goal scored by Usman Mohammed to level the score for Nigeria.
The Nigerian team got carried away and a momentary loss of concentration allowed Vitolo to feed 18-year-old substitute, Borja Garcés, with a through ball that caught the Nigerian defence flat-footed, the youngster fired past helpless Femi Thomas in goal to score the third goal for Atletico Madrid in the 85th minute.
The Super Eagles tried to score an equaliser that would have taken the match into a penalty shoot-out, but their effort yielded little as Los Rojiblancos held on for a hard-fought 3-2 win at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo to claim the inaugural edition of the GOtv MAX Cup.
The Nigerian team gave a very good account of themselves even in defeat, Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr will certainly be pleased with what he saw. Kelechi Nwakali, in particular, was exceptional in midfield, his passing, vision and trickery will surely be an added advantage to Russia bound Super Eagles team.