Ghana were inspired by a packed house in Kumasi but the Black Stars failed to make a breakthrough in the first leg of their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying playoff against Nigeria, drawing 0-0 on Friday. The hosts had the better of the play but failed to take advantage of their momentum in the first half and will now have to get a result in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on Tuesday.
Black Stars manager Otto Addo proved he was unafraid to take risks, starting two teenagers with his team searching for redemption following their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations group stage exit. Attacking midfielder Abdul Fatawu Issahaku and forward Felix Afena-Gyan provided a youthful boost to the Ghanaian attack as the hosts dominated proceedings in the first half.
The two players combined for Ghana’s best chance in the 33rd minute when Afena-Gyan collected a lofted ball from left back Gideon Mensah and laid off for a first time blast from Fatawu that stung the hands of Nigeria goalie Francis Uzoho as he palmed the ball wide. Nigeria had their one good first half look in the 41st minute when right back Ola Aina found Joe Aribo in the penalty area, but the Rangers FC player got under his shot and sent it harmlessly over the bar.
Play was more even after halftime with Nigeria showing some more initiative moving forward. Ten minutes into the second half Kelechi Iheanacho picked his head up and crafted a perfect pass to find an open Moses Simon, but the FC Nantes winger’s shot was well blocked by Black Stars keeper Joe Wollacott. Nigeria appeared to have a golden opportunity when Ghana midfielder Baba Iddrisu was caught in possession and handled the ball in his area as he fell down under challenges from two Super Eagles players, but after initially awarding a penalty kick referee Redouane Jiyed was called over by the Video Assistant Referee and deemed that Iddrisu was fouled.
Nigeria proceeded to prioritize defending and were able to hold out for result they will be mostly satisfied with. Highlights from Kumasi are below.