Amodu blames wingless Eagles over draw

SUPER Eagles' coach, Shaibu Amodu, has blamed his strikers for the team's inability to defeat Mozambique in their first match of the last phase of the South Africa 2010 World Cup qualifying series.

The Eagles, despite their much-vaunted determination to erase the memories of the 2006 World Cup miss, did not do anything to suggest that they are capable of beating Tunisia to the lone ticket to South Africa. Rather, Nigeria would have come home without any point had the referee allowed any of the two goals the hosts scored to stay.

Tunisia leads Group B with three points after beating Kenya 2-1 in Nairobi last weekend. Nigeria needed to beat Mozambique to be on the same points with Tunisia, which is the real threat to its 2010 ambition, ended its game goalless. Speaking to journalists after the game, Amodu said rather strangely that the Super Eagles were unlucky, adding that poor marksmanship denied Nigeria victory.

"We were denied by poor marksmanship today," Amodu said. "And the defence was tactically confused in the first half but we controlled it and asked Obinna Nwaneri to take responsibility and go man to man with the number 10, who was causing us problems."

The coach wants Nigerians to be patient with the team, saying that things would improve with more matches. According to him, "this team is improving and will get better. We didn't start too well in the first half, but we improved in the second half and this team will get better with every game played."

In the game, Mozambique had two goals disallowed by the Eritrean officials. Veteran striker Dario Monteiro from South African club, Mamelodi Sundowns, was the most unlucky footballer on the artificial Machava Stadium pitch in Maputo as he netted twice during the first half only to be ruled offside each time.

While the Mozambican Mambas (Snakes) did not protest too much when an early Monteiro header was disallowed, the decision of the match officials to disallow another goal stirred sadness. Mozambique looked more likely to break the deadlock before a sell-out 35,000 crowd while Nigeria demonstrated its experience with solid defending throughout.

Nigeria included Chelsea's midfielder, John Obi Mikel, in the starting line-up after he had been doubtful for the Group B fixture owing to a throat infection. While Mozambique applied most of the first half pressure, Newcastle United's striker Obafemi Martins had a good chance to break the deadlock when he burst through only to be thwarted by goalkeeper Joao Kapango.

There was another scare for the Mambas when an Ikechukwu Uche header was cleared off the line while already-booked Nigerian captain, Obinna Nwaneri, was lucky to escape a red card when his professional foul went unpunished.

The second half offered less drama, with Mozambique on top territorially while an Obinna Nsofor shot from the edge of the penalty area drew a superb reflex save from Kapango. Nigeria will host Kenya while Mozambique visits Tunisia in the second series of fixtures in June.

-culled from the Guardian