Daniel Akpeyi has opened up for the very first time about Riyad Mahrez’s last-gasp free-kick winner in Nigeria’s semifinal loss to Algeria in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
With the game firmly poised at 1-1 and seemingly headed for extra-time, Eagles midfielder Wilfred Ndidi conceded a free-kick on the edge of the box to the left of Akpeyi’s goal.
With Mahrez stood behind the ball to the left and Mehdi Zeffane to the right, Akpeyi arranged his wall to protect the left part of his goal but then stood behind the wall leaving ample space to his right which Mahrez duly exploited to score the winner.
Many Nigerians pilloried the Kaizer Chiefs goalie’s positioning for the goal and placed the blame for Nigeria’s failure to make the final firmly at his doorstep.
Super Eagles goalkeeping coach Alloy Agu in an exclusive interview with busybuddiesng.com hinted that Akpeyi’s positioning for the setpiece left a lot to be desired.
And in an interview with ESPN, Akpeyi agreed with his Agu’s stance that he should have done a lot better with his positioning.
“I must say that maybe I was not in the right position where I should be,” the former Gabros goalkeeper told ESPN.
“My coaches always say that if the position of the set play is very close. He will probably have 20% chance of scoring on the other side. So I should have shifted a little.
No stranger to being harangued by Nigerians, the 33-year-old said he knew immediately following the game that he would be subjected to a barrage of harsh criticisms from his countrymen.
He, however, revealed that he took the backlash in his stride and dealt with it as a professional even though he believed some of the reaction were over the top.
“At the back of my head, I just knew that Nigerians will come at me again, but you just have to stand your ground. It has happened to the best in the world. It is going to happen again. You won’t be the last. But if you keep this in your head, it is going to drain you.
“At the end of the day, the people that tried to put you down will rejoin over this. So be a professional, take it, learn from it, and go on. So when I got all that backlash, as a human, you will feel it; but I laughed at it and shook it off.
“Imagine that a week later, he scored a similar goal in his club, and the world did not come down.
“But because it is Akpeyi, it was very easy for the bell to ring in people’s mind that Akpeyi is this, Akpeyi is that,” he added.