Ethiopia show true grit
The second half was less eventful, perhaps unsurprisingly, given the drama in the first. One might’ve thought the game was as good as over considering Ethiopia’s backs against the wall but Said hadn’t got the memo. He was the one ray of hope they had to maybe get something out of the game and for the first 15 minutes of so, they had done well to keep Zambia down to the one goal.
20 minutes into the second half, Ethiopia were feeling the effects of being a man down and Hintsa was brought on for Kebede. It was then Hintsa’s pass which found Said just outside the box and with plenty of space, laid it on for Adane Girma rushing in to equalise. The goal gave both teams some much-needed ambition as Zambia began to show some zip in their play, while Ethiopia hoped to break them on the counter.
Both teams went in search for the winning goal but failed to convert their chances. Zambia were well worth the three points going into the second half, but Ethiopia never lost hope even with 10 men and deserved a point with their well-taken goal.
Man of the Match: Addis Hintsa
The fact that a substitute who played 30 minutes is being given the accolade speaks volumes about the individual performances in this match. Saladin Said also has a case with his pressing of a poor Zambian defense but the addition of Hintsa seemed to give Ethiopia a fresh impetus and created better chances as opposed to the wastefulness in the first hour. It’s a wonder why he never started the game.
NIGERIA VS BURKINA FASO
The second match of the day saw the Super Eagles and the Stallions lock heads in a scrappy battle amid the rough, sandy pitch of the Mbombela stadium. A first half Emmanuel Emenike goal seemed set to secure Nigeria the win but in a thrilling twist Alain Traore prodded home the last kick of the game to rescue a point.
The early moments of the match were characterised by good spells of Nigerian attacking pressure interspersed with dangerous Burkinabe long balls played over the top. The aforementioned poor surface made retention of the ball a particularly tricky feat, but the surface wasn’t entirely to blame for what was an especially scrappy start; the sides accumulating a ridiculous 28 fouls between them in the first half alone.
Super Eagles Soar Ahead
Nigeria had a few early sights of goal; Ideye taking a high ball on his chest just inside the penalty area only to be unceremoniously bundled to the ground by Kone, but to his dismay, no spot kick was awarded. Ahmed Musa’s pace posed a constant threat wherever he decided to roam; flying down the right wing he was able to supply Ideye with one particularly good opportunity, only for the Dynamo forward to blaze over. The pressure eventually told though, as a lofted ball over the Burkinabe defence was met by the perfectly timed run and gracefully executed back-heel flick of Ideye which gave Emenike the opportunity to bravely launch Nigeria ahead.
With a goal’s lead, Nigeria somewhat took their foot off the pedal. As the half wore on, the chances began to dry up, and increasingly often, Burkina Faso found themselves starting to press at the opposite end of the pitch. Whilst they amassed a number of freekicks, the injured Alain Traore’s position on the bench meant they never seriously endangered Enyeama’s goal and going into half-time it was that Lorient forward’s threat that Burkina Faso were crying out for. Their cries were answered.
After a bright start to the second half, Dagano should have sent The Stallions level; missing a guilt edged header from a pinpoint in-swinging cross. Man of the match – Jonathan Pitroipa stood out among the Burkinabe forwards, his dribbling abilities and dynamism gave Burkina Faso some real spark but lacking a clinical finisher – Dagano constantly failing to make his chances count – they weren’t able to make their attacks pay.
Thankfully for Burkina Faso, their opposition were doing just the same. The introduction of Uche in place of the goal scorer Emenike offered Nigeria a different option up top as they looked to further their lead, having crafted a wonderful opportunity for himself, Uche looked set to do just that, but with the kind of miss a commentator often greets with prophetical words of warning, he blasted high and wide.
With neither side taking the impetus it seemed the game could fade into a succession of nervous mistakes, then Burkina Faso were given a break; a moment of Pitroipa magic on the wing drawing a meek Ambrose foul, which in turn dubiously drew a second yellow from the ref’s pocket and saw Nigeria reduced to 10 men.
Stallions spoil the party
Even with the man advantage, Burkina Faso didn’t seem hugely likely to pull a goal back, but had they been camped on the edge of the Nigerians’ penalty area, they may not have eventually done so. It was a break from a retrospectively foolish Nigerian attack that afforded The Stallions one final chance, with 4 vs 4 pushing into the final third, Pitroipa drove ahead into the area, his slip seemed to signal game over but having a night where things just clicked, he regained his footing enough to pull the ball back, a failed attempt at a clearance allowed it to eventually connect with Traore’s unrelenting left boot. 1-1, fulltime.
In a first round thus far packed with draws, the day’s games left us no closer to forming a real idea of what the tournament will develop into. The group is still wide open and as has been seen so many times before, a touch of fortune here or there could make the difference.
Nigeria showed in those opening minutes what they have to offer; they’ve got a mixture of pace, power and composure up top, which, if used effectively, could be devastating. Perhaps an area of concern for them would be in the middle of the park; Mikel’s importance to the team – adding some attacking thrust to his normally defensive minded duties – cannot be understated, a bad performance from him would leave the team very disjointed. If they are able to better link together those elements of danger in the forward areas, they stand a chance against any side, but the defensive frailties they occasionally showed and the psychological hit of the late equalizer leaves them precariously placed.
Burkina Faso meanwhile can be quite content with their opening day result. They simply must keep Alain Traore fit if they wish to further challenge, but with him and the returning Charles Kabore in the side, they form an interesting prospect.Pitroipa stepped up on the night, if others – particularly Dagano – can follow suit in games to come, the Stallions might yet charge through.