Super Eagles manager Gernot Rohr appeared happy with his side’s performance despite Nigeria again failing to pick up three points against Sierra Leone in their 2021 AFCON qualifier on Tuesday.
Nigeria drew 0-0 with Sierra Leone at the Siaka Stevens Stadium to make it four games without victory in 2020. It is the first time in over forty years that the Eagles ended a calendar year without a win.
But after the catastrophic manner his team gave up a four goal lead to draw 4-4 with the Leone Stars in the reverse fixture in Benin City last week, Rohr felt his “young team” proved a point about their battling qualities after keeping a first clean sheet since the 1-0 win against Tunisia at the 2019 AFCON in Egypt.
Rohr was particularly happy about the performance of 20-year-old goalkeeper Maduka Okoye who came on for intense criticism after the first leg but surprisingly kept his place for the return leg.
Speaking to the media department of the Nigeria Football Federation, Rohr said: “It’s a long, long time since we had a goalless defence, we wanted to be solid after what happened in the second half the other day, and I’m especially very happy for our goalkeeper who showed to everybody that he is a good one.”
The injury to top scorer Victor Osimhen meant the Eagles were deprived of their biggest goal threat in Freetown but Rohr felt his players “fought very well” for the Napoli striker by eking out a draw.
Although taking a solitary point meant Nigeria will have to wait until Matchday five against Benin Republic next March for another chance to seal their place in Cameroon, Rohr was happy the Super Eagles remained top of Group L and pointed to the draw between Benin held Lesotho in the group’s other game as proof football no longer has “little opponents”.
“We have a young team, it was a shock the other day after the injury of Victor Osimhen, everybody was afraid [and] today, they wanted to fight for him, they did it, they [fought] very well.
“And I think this draw now still keeps us top of the table we have to play another two games now, its Benin and Lesotho and normally, it’s not official but we are very close now to qualification so also the result of Benin who made a draw against Lesotho all the games are difficult they’re are no little opponents everybody is well organised.”
Both teams struggled to string together coherent attacking moves and although Alex Iwobi had an effort ruled out for offside and Kelechi Iheanacho snatched at a few half chances, there wasn’t much in terms of clearcut chances for either side.
Rohr pointed to the atrocious playing surface of the Siaka Stevens Stadium as the reason for Nigeria’s struggles and congratulated his team for earning a draw away from home in difficult circumstances.
“Today, on this difficult pitch we tried to play football, I don’t know if the goal was offside or not but we tried, we tried to play well on this difficult pitch and congrats to the players, they showed that they can fight together and make a goalless draw away.”