Eagles reflect on Malawi draw, ready for Rwanda *We have to work on our weaknesses – Keshi *Reuben dedicates goal to late mother
WorldStage Newsonline-- “Just how do you play so well and still end up drawing a game with just seconds to the end,” that was the submission of Atletico Beleares of Spain midfielder, Raheem Lawal, after the World Cup qualifier between Nigeria and Malawi in Blantyre ended in a 1-1 Saturday, with the host scoring with barely the last kick of the encounter.
Lawal, who said he felt a personal sense of loss, because he was the one that lost a ball in the midfield that was floated into the Nigerian vital area, vowed that Malawi, will see hell when they come for the return leg in Nigeria, as he sobbed uncontrollably after the encounter.
Defender Azubuike Egwueke, said he cannot explain what went wrong in the defence line in the last minute of the encounter.
“We have to forget that now and focus on the next match, but I still can’t believe that we drew the match, but we have an opportunity when they come for the return leg,” he said as he acknowledged the contributions of Nigeria’s goal scorer, Reuben Gabriel.
The dressing room of the Nigerian side, was like a graveyard after the encounter, as tears flowed freely as if the team had lost a World Cup final. It continued during dinner time and forced striker, Ikechukwu Uche to ask whether somebody had died. He received derisive glances from back room staff in what looked like an off the cough comment.
Head Coach Stephen Keshi, while reviewing the match, said it was unbelievable but that he would like to dwell on the positives of the encounter, even as he described the draw as a loss to the team.
“This is a fairly new team and it takes time for us to reach the level that our established players have reached, but I’m happy that the players did well, but unfortunately lost valuable points in the last minute. We created chance after chance in the first half and refused to take, to score late in the match and lose the lead is totally unacceptable and we have to go and work on our weaknesses,” he said.
Nigeria’s lone goal scorer in the match, Gabriel Reuben of Kano Pillars, has dedicated the goal to his late mother who passed on two weeks ago while he was on national assignment.
Speaking in Blantyre after the encounter, the soft-spoken midfielder, said it was very painful to lose the woman who brought him to life, while he was away on an international friendly game against Peru in Lima.
“The goal is for my mother, I still miss her and on the last day I will tell her how much I missed her for the care and love she gave me as a child. At the moment I’m so happy and short of words, but must say thank you Mama for bringing me to life, that goal is for you,” he said.
Reuben said he will also take time to celebrate with his teammates in Kano Pillars when he returns to the city, noting that he also holds some level of his performance to the club for grooming him to standard for national team coaches to select from.
Meanwhile, the national team will resume training in Abuja on Monday morning, following their arrival from Blantyre, Malawi, Sunday, after a 1-1 draw in a World Cup qualifier last Saturday.
Head Coach, Stephen Keshi told the players after a late lunch at the Bolton White Hotel, that the morning training will involve players who played no part in the encounter against Malawi, save for one. However, the evening training will involve all the players and officials of the team by 4pm on Monday.
The Nigerian side returned to the country Sunday afternoon via a chartered Chanchangi 737 Airliner, still sulking from the late draw that Malawi snatched on Saturday. The team will now depart for Calabar, where they will engage the Wasps of Rwanda on Tuesday and will again camp at the Metropolitan Hotel in the city.
Some of the players dropped from the Malawi party are expected to join the team in Calabar for the encounter against Rwanda on Saturday in the Canaan City.