Nigeria was held to a goalless draw by Rwanda in Wednesday’s first leg 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualification game in Kigali.
The Super Eagles, who were playing their first competitive match under Stephen Keshi, could not unlock the defense of the Wasps who played in front of a vociferous crowd at the Stade Regionale de Nyamirambo.
The west Africans started the game with a burden of expectation after they failed to qualify for the recently concluded tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
But the experimentation with players from the local league mixed with Europe-based players did not seem to work early on as the home side gained confidence while roared on by their fans. The Nigerians were unable to create clear cut chances, which emboldened the Rwandans.
When the visiting side did create, forwards Ejike Uzoenyi and Peter Odemwingie struggled to convert the opportunities.
The Wasps, rising to the occasion, surged forward and troubled the shaky Nigerian defense that was marshaled by captain Joseph Yobo who made his record record-breaking 87th appearance for the national side.
Keshi made changes in the front line for the second half, taking off Odemwingie and Ahmed Musa for Ikechukwu Uche and Victor Moses, who finally made his international commitment to his country of birth.
Nigeria’s Aiyegbeni Yakubu saw a goal ruled offside just as the Wasps’ Dady Birori had a screaming shot sail wide of the cross bar.
Moments later, Birori had an opportunity saved by Vincent Enyeama, who grabbed the ball at his feet before he could shoot at goal.
While the Rwandans and their coach Milutin Sredojevic will take delight in a draw against the supposedly mighty Eagles, Keshi’s men will go back home knowing that much work still needs to be done if they are to return to their all-conquering days.
Nigeria will host the return leg in June.
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