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Little spice in ‘Jollof derby’ as Ghana and Nigeria draw

Nigeria's fans cheer during the African Cup of Nations Group D soccer match between Egypt and Nigeria in Garoua, Cameroon, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. AP

Regional rivals Ghana and Nigeria played out a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their World Cup playoff in Kumasi on Friday, leaving the tie wide open when they meet again in Abuja on Tuesday to decide a place at the World Cup.

The ‘Jollof derby’, so-called after the rice dish popular in both countries, failed to produce much spice and will have left fans unsatisfied after a myriad of mistakes and poor decision-making marked the game.

Home side Ghana had more of the possession and chances but proved sloppy in their finishing.

Only twice did they test goalkeeper Francis Uzoho, who made a stop from a stinging shot by Issahaku Fatawu in the 33rd minute and then again in the 71st minute from Mohammed Kudus.

Nigeria’s best opening fell to Moses Simon 10 minutes into the second half but he squandered the chance to score a vital away goal.

Nigeria were awarded a penalty with 15 minutes left when Idrissu Baba Mohamed handled the ball after being tripped in his own penalty area, but after a VAR check the referee changed his decision and handed Ghana a free kick.

Ghana were playing their first game under new coach Otto Addo, who had former Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton as a consultant.

He handed debuts to AS Roma teenager Felix Ohene-Gyan and 33-year-old former Belgium defender Denis Odoi, who switched allegiance ahead of the two-legged playoff.

Leicester City’s Ademola Lookman, who had previously played for England at under-21 level, made his Nigeria debut as a substitute for the last 15 minutes.