By Izuchukwu Okosi
The Super Eagles suffered a humiliating 2-0 defeat to the Barea of Madagascar on Sunday in their last Group B game of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations to finish second in the table.
Lalaina Nomenjanahary and Andrea Dossema scored the goals for debutants Madagascar who topped the group with seven points, a point above Nigeria who had won previous games against Burundi and Guinea.
Mikel had Nigeria’s first chance to score as right back Chidozie Awaziem crossed tge ball into the box but the Madagascar defence cleared the ball before the Nigerian captain can prod home the ball.
Five minutes later Odion Ighalo won a free kick at the edge of the Madagascar box but Ahmed Musa’s shot that ensued was high and off target.
Madagascar scored in the 13th minute from a defensive howler by Brighton defender Leon Balogun who gifted the ball to Lalaina Nomenjanahary. The Nigerian had received a pass from John Ogu at the edge of the Eagles’ box but was pick pocketed by the onrushing attacker.
Balogun who is now under tremendous pressure was almost repeating his error shortly after when he back passed to goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa with an opponent in sight but thankfully the Katsina United keeper cleared the ball.
With half an hour played, Musa felt he was fouled by the Madagascan keeper but referee Bakary Gassama refused to award a penalty.
The debutants had one more chance to extend their leas but a shot from the left side of Nigerian defence only hit the bar.
Things went from bad to worse for Nigeria in the 52nd minute when Andrea Dossena’s free kick deflected off the hand of Wilfred Ndidi – a second half entrant in place of John Ogu and nestled at the top left hand corner with goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa unable to stop the ball.
Ndidi afterwards hoped to salvage some lost pride as he turned swiftly away from his marker to shoot in the Madagascar box but the effort was tame and duly saved by the Madagascan keeper.
Madagascar maintained their defensive discipline to see out the game.