Super Eagles head coach, Salisu Yusuf has reflected on his side’s 4-0 defeat to Morocco in the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) final at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca on Sunday.
He blamed the defeat on injuries to some key players.
A brace from Zakaria Hadraf and a goal each from Walid El Karti and Ayoub El Kaabi was all the Atlas Lions needed to win their first major continental title since the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
“We lost because we had to manage due to many injuries and Morocco played well,” Salisu told the media.
The home-based Super Eagles were without some of their key players, Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Sunday Faleye.
Peter Eneji, who was making his first appearance in the tournament, was sent off after the Nigeria attacker received his second yellow card.
“They created chances and scored, it could have been better if we had all our players available. The game become more difficult with the red card,” he added.
Salisu decided to bench his star striker, Anthony Okpotu and he was replaced by Eneji on the Super Eagles starting line-up.
“It was a strategy to introduce Okpotu from the bench, Eneji did well. We wanted to win but Morocco got it,” he explained.
However, Super Eagles forward, Anthony Okpotu, countered his coach’s position, saying the Moroccan team won because they were better side.
He expressed his sadness over his side heavy defeat to Atlas Lions, saying the result was not
what they bargained for.
“The game was a big one, we had injuries and suspensions, and as you can see both teams played well, and the better side won” Okpotu stated.
Morocco won the 2018 African Nations Championship on Sunday as they beat Nigeria 4-0 in Casablanca to become the first host nation to lift the title.
Goals from Walid El Karti, Ayoub El Kaabi and a double from Zakaria Hadraf did the damage, with Nigeria reduced to 10 men early in the second half after Otekpa Eneji was sent off for a second bookable offense.
The hosts were having the better of the first half, but Nigeria did have sight of goal when a smart turn from Eneji allowed him to lay the ball off to Reuben Gabriel. His shot was blocked, though.
Morocco managed to get the goal their dominance deserved just before half-time. Badr Banoun surged out of defense and found left-back Abdeljalil Jbira on the overlap. He pulled the ball back to Hadraf to fire home the opener from 10 yards out.
Nigeria then suffered another blow early in the second half as Eneji was sent off for a second bookable offense after a foul on Mohamed Nahiri.
With a man advantage, Morocco had chances to extend their lead further as Nigeria goalkeeper Dele Ajiboye denied El Kaabi from a corner and the forward then put another header just wide.
However, Morocco’s dominance finally paid off just past the hour mark as they scored twice in three minutes to seal the victory. El Karti grabbed the second as he headed home Jbira’s cross after El Kaabi had once again been denied by the woodwork.
Hadraf then scored his second of the match, powering home after Ajiboy could only get fingertips to Haddad’s cross.
There was still time for more goals, and the star of the tournament, El Kaabi, grabbed his ninth goal of the campaign from close range to seal the victory and his place as top scorer.
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