9 June 2012

Nigeria/Malawi: 2014 WC Qualifier - Enyeama Hands Malawi a Draw

A horrendous mistake by goalkeeper and skipper Vincent Enyeama enabled Malawi to equalise with almost the last kick of the game and deny Nigeria the full three points in a 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil qualifying match on Saturday.

Stephen Keshi's side stood firmly against the fast runs and enthusiasm of the home team, who created plenty of chances in the opening period.

But even at that, the Eagles would blame themselves for conceding in a match that many thought had been won.

The Flames have much to thank goalkeeper Simplex Nthara for, as he stood between striker Ikechukwu Uche and goal on at least two occasions in the first half, just as the Eagles also survived the hangman in some instances.

Midfielder Gabriel Reuben rose above the defence to powerfully nod Nigeria in front in the 89th minute, off a corner kick by Ejike Uzoenyi.

Enyeama had a simple job to do to push away a floated ball in the area, after hollering at his defenders to leave the ball for him. But he went for the ball with only one hand and fumbled, leaving the Malawians with a heaven-sent opportunity to earn a point on the day.

Mauritian referee, Rajindraparsad Seechurn blew off the game immediately after the restart.

The match itself was fast-paced with the Malawians asking most of the questions in the first 15 minutes. Joseph Kamwendo, Chimango Kayira and Robin Ngalande were particularly dangerous.

But they either wasted the chances that came their way or the central pair of Godfrey Oboabona and Azubuike Egwueke thwarted them.

Enyeama's day began on an anxious note, as a mistake by him led to Malawi earning a free-kick at the edge of the box with only five minutes played.

Three minutes later, Enyeama had to be at his best to punch over a vicious shot by Kayira, and at the other end, Nigerians were on their feet to

celebrate a goal when Ikechukwu Uche freed himself to a one-on-one with Nthara.

Another shot by Uche, who scored Nigeria's goal in the 1-0 win over Namibia in Calabar on Sunday, was saved before Efe Ambrose thwarted a

dangerous-looking pull-out by the lively Atusaye Nyondo. A minute later, Ngalande rocked Enyeama's upright.

In the 26th minute, James Kamwendo came pretty close, while Ngalande and Malawi could have been celebrating three minutes later but the ball missed target.

A mistimed kick by left back Juwon Oshaniwa with six minutes left in the half freed the Flames again but Enyeama was alert.

However, it should have been Nigeria ahead on the clock when Ikechukwu Uche got behind the defence in 41st minute, only for Nthara to read him well once more.

On the hour mark, Uche's header was again saved. But at the other end, Malawi also came close.

The exit of Obiora Nwankwo, who had a miserable game, for recuperating Raheem Lawal with 15 minutes to go changed the complexion of the game, as Nigeria

asserted themselves in the middle and played with greater confidence, looking menacing.

Three minutes to the end, Nthara again foiled Ikechukwu Uche, but the Malawian shot-stopper had no answer to Gabriel Reuben's powerful header from Ejike Uzoenyi's corner kick in the 89thminute.

It should have ended that way, but Enyeama fumbled, and the spoils were shared.

Next up for the Eagles is a must-win 2013 African Cup of Nations qualifier against Rwanda in Calabar on Saturday.

Both teams ended it 0-0 in Kigali on February 29 and Nigeria must win to progress to the last round of the qualification series in September.

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