Nigeria U23 star, Taiwo Awoniyi has emphasised that he went for the rebound that led to their opening goal in their U23 AFCON qualifier against Sudan because he knew as a striker he must be alert to deal decisively with balls in the opposing teams’ territory and was happy his effort paid off.
Awoniyi got Nigeria’s curtain-raiser in the 10th minute of the encounter at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba after the Sudanese goalkeeper, Mohammad Adam spilt Ibrahim Sunusi’s pile driver and was presented with the task of nodding the ball beyond the reach of the goalie.
The Liverpool on-loan striker to FSV Mainz 05 of Germany told SportsTainment247.com that the major talking point of their team talk was that it was important they got the first goal as quickly as possible and because other goals will come thereafter.
“We have to give glory to God because he made everything possible,” Awoniyi told Sportstainment247.com.
“The coach told us yesterday (Monday) and also in the discussion, we had among ourselves we concluded that it was important we get the first goal as quickly as possible. We believed that after the first goal more goals will come in.
“It was just normal that I was privileged to get the first goal. I was happy and it felt great to be part of history.
For me, I will say that as a striker you have to be ready at every point in time. Your job is to be in the box and be ready to get the second ball because everything is possible in football and that was what happened to the goalkeeper.
“He made a lot of saves in the game also. I just felt maybe he might drop it and it was what pushed me to go forward for the ball and I got lucky that I scored from the rebound.”
The soft-spoken attacker pointed out that all hands must be on deck to ensure that Nigeria picks one of the three automatic tickets to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and that the task of getting the team ready for the competition in Egypt should start now.
He also noted that he had to make a lot of sacrifices including forfeiting the opportunity to use the international window to bond properly with his new teammates at Mainz 05 to be present for the U23 doubleheader with Sudan but that he had no regrets making such choice for his country.
“We are all happy to secure the ticket to the Under 23 AFCON in Egypt and we are aware that what is next is to ensure that we prepare very well for the championship so that we can end up picking one of the tickets to the Olympic Games,” he continued.
“It is a task we must work towards and we must try and do our part with our clubs to ensure we are released for the competition. For instance, it could have been very easy for me to stay with my club during the international break because they wanted me to stay with the team to learn more about it. I only joined Mainz just about three weeks ago and I have not really got going there.
But I told them I would like to go and help my country. I have no regret that I made the choice. I will go back and do my best for my club.”
Awoniyi and his new club will be at home this weekend to slug it out with Hertha Berlin in one of the Matchday Four of the German Bundesliga. They are last in the 18 team table with no points from three games.