Meet the 3 Nigerians who helped Royal Antwerp destroy Barcelona in the UCL

Royal Antwerp bowed out of the UCL in style against Barcelona. (Photo Credit: Antwerp/X)

Meet the 3 Nigerians who helped Royal Antwerp destroy Barcelona in the UCL

Izuchukwu Akawor 08:57 - 14.12.2023

LALIGA champions FC Barcelona were shocked by Belgian clubside Royal Antwerp inspired by their Nigerian trio of Alhassan Yusuf, Chidera Ejuke, and George Ilenikhena.

Belgian club Royal Antwerp orchestrated a shocking 3-2 victory against football giants Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League, UCL.

While the Belgians’ triumph was a collective effort, the spotlight is undeniably on the excellent contributions of three Nigerian stars who played pivotal roles in dismantling the Catalans in the final match of the group stage in Group H.

Antwerp: The Underdogs

In what was undoubtedly a dead rubber encounter, the Belgians were still the underdogs against Xavi Hernandez’s LALIGA champions. 

However, after 90 minutes, Antwerp emerged as victors, inspired by their Nigerians, one of whom netted the decisive winner in the five-goal thriller against the illustrious Barcelona. 

Royal Antwerp celebrate at full time.
Royal Antwerp celebrate at full time. (Photo Credit: Royal Antwerp/X)

The players in question, a Super Eagles winger and two others eligible for Nigeria, a midfielder and another forward.

Meet the Nigerian Trio

The Super Eagles forward proved to be a thorn in Barcelona’s defence from his left-wing position in a five-man midfield for Antwerp. 

His speed and dribbling ability were too hot for Barcelona to handle as the once highly-rated star continues what has been a renaissance at Antwerp.

Chidera Ejuke was a handful for Barcelona defenders. (Photo Credit: Royal Antwerp/X)

Ejuke was at his playmaking best, with three chances created, three key passes made and a remarkable nine dribbles completed against the Spanish champions.

The 25-year-old was not all offensive in his approach as he did not neglect his defensive work. He made eight recoveries and won 100% of his tackles and two interceptions.

The youngster had the game of his life as one of the three central midfielders in Antwerp’s middle third.

Hassan orchestrated play with finesse and vision, showing his ability to control that could prove invaluable for Nigeria’s Super Eagles at AFCON2023.

Alhassan Yusuf assisted the second goal for Antwerp. (Photo Credit: Antwerp/X)

In terms of his numbers, Yusuf, 23, who also lasted 90 minutes like his compatriot, Ejuke, completed 84% of his passes, with which he created the chance that led to Vincent Janssen’s goal to restore Antwerp’s lead.

He also won three of four attempted tackles, and had four touches in the opposition box, while making five recoveries and one interception.

  • George Ilenikhena

The youngest of the trio at just 17-year-old was not left out of the show against the giants from Spain. 

George Ilenikhena needed just 11 minutes to make a name for himself and he took the bull by the horns with a memorable goal which turned out to be the ultimate difference maker. 

George Ilenikhena was the hero of the day for Antwerp.
George Ilenikhena was the hero of the day for Antwerp. (Photo Credit: Antwerp/X)

The Franco-Nigerian netted with his only shot in the game while completing 100% of his passes.

For those who follow Nigerian talents closely, the victory over Barcelona was more than just an upset. It was a showcase of the immense potential that Nigeria has. 

While Antwerp bowed out of the UCL, the trio of Ejuke, Alhassan and Ilenikhena combined to help the club exit the competition with pride and a memory that will last a lifetime.

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