Godwin Izilein says Kenneth Omeruo and Ogenyi Onazi must take some blame for the Super Eagles’ poor defending in their opening Russia 2018 World Cup Group B qualifier against Zambia’s Chipolopolo at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola, Zambia, on Sunday.
Nigeria won the encounter 2-1, with goals from Premier League attacking duo Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho. Veteran striker Collins Mbesuma capitalised on Omeruo’s schoolboy defending to score Zambia’s goal.
Gabon and Equatorial Guinea 2012 Africa Cup of Nations champions Chipolopolo put the Eagles under intense pressure for the majority of the match and went close but some smart goalkeeping from Carl Ikeme helped Nigeria survive the Southern Africans’ onslaught.
Former Super Falcons coach Izilein, who hailed the Eagles for picking up maximum points on the road, urged Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr to keep his players on their toes.
He maintains Turkey-based defender Omeruo conceded “a cheap goal” in the encounter – and his Turkish league colleague Onazi (defensive midfielder) put up a below-par performance.
“Omeruo conceded a cheap goal in the game,” the former national Under-17 team manager told our correspondent on the telephone on Monday.
“He should have cleared the ball off the box instead of gambling, because it was a fair one.
“Omeruo is a good defender, but he gambles a lot – and his gambling has cost us goals in the past.”
The former Eagles winger added, “Onazi made the job difficult for Mikel (Obi) because he was not in the game.The coach should go for players who are committed.”
Izilein hailed Manchester City’s rising star Iheanacho for scoring “a classy goal” in the qualifier.
Iheanacho went on a mazy run after a pass from Greece-based Brown Ideye, leaving Chipolopolo defenders chasing shadows before he rounded goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene in the 43rd minute to put Nigeria 2-0 up.
Izilein said, “An amateur player would have shot from such a tight angle. But Iheanacho moved calmly to score the goal.
“With regular matches at Man City and the national team, the player will transform into one of the most feared strikers in the world.”
The former Sharks coach praised Rohr’s formation for the encounter, saying Iheanacho’s combination with Iwobi in the attack should continue.
Izilein said, “The result of the game speaks for the coach. He has shown that he knows how to handle a rough side like Zambia.”