Super Eagles captain, Joseph Yobo on Sunday grabbed a late equalizer to rescue Nigeria from what would had been an embarrassing loss to Ethiopia in a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier played in Addis Ababa.
With barely four minutes left on the clock, the Fenerbahce of Turkey defender stole in at the far post to turn in John Mikel Obi’s well delivered free kick to deny the Ethiopians a win and at the same time end their hopes of qualifying for next year’s tournament to be co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
The Super Eagles had two months ago defeated the Ethiopians 4-0 in Abuja, a result which eventually led to the replacement of Iffy Onuora as coach of the Walya Antelopes.
Tom Saintfiet was under a month ago named as replacement for the Nigerian-born Onuora and set about ringing changes to the side seeking to make a first appearance at the Cup of Nations since 1982.
For his part, Samson Siasia made only two changes to the starting line-up that had romped to a 4-1 victory over Argentina last Wednesday, bringing in the duo of Ahmed Musa and Peter Utaka in place of Kalu Uche and Victor Anichebe.
Uche had earlier been granted permission to leave the national team’s camp to return to his Spanish base to formalise his future following Almeria’s relegation to the Spanish second division.
Ike Uche strikes again
But the Super Eagles were always going to be the favourites heading into the game, and it was Uche’s younger brother, Ikechukwu Uche, who put the Super Eagles ahead on 27 minutes; a lead which the Nigerians held on to until the 41st minute when Saladin Seid grabbed an equalizer for the Walya Antelopes.
The goal was the younger Uche’s 11th international goal for Nigeria, and his sixth in four appearances for the Super eagles since his return from an 18-month injury lay-off.
However, eight minutes into the second half, Seid capitalized on a mix-up in the Nigerian defence to slot the ball past Vincent Enyeama in the Nigerian goal and shoot the home side into the lead.
But Yobo, coming off an impressive league campaign with Turkish champions Fenerbahce, rescued a point for the Super Eagles in the 86th minute.
With Guinea beating Madagascar 4-1 in Sunday’s other Group B encounter in Conakry, thus opening a three-point lead at the top of the standings, the result in Addis Ababa leaves the Super Eagles with no choice but to win their remaining two games away to Madagascar and at home to Guinea.