In the end it was a thrilling 2-2 draw in Dnipro as the Super Eagles, who the Ukraine coach described as “weak” owing to the absence of some key players, were denied a big win over a European team after a late fight back by their hosts tonight.
Nigeria led 2-0 by the interval after goals by debutant Joe Aribo and Victor Osimhen only for Ukraine to end the game on level terms with two goals in the second half even though their equalizer ought not to have stood because there was a hand ball leading to it.
Ukraine are ranked 25th in the FIFA Rankings, eight spots above Nigeria, but it was the Africans, hit by several late withdrawals, who took charge of the game and were promptly rewarded as early as the third minute when Aribo put away a cutback by Alex Iwobi after great work by the tricky Samuel Kalu.
The Eagles then doubled their lead in the 34th minute from the penalty spot as Osimhen scored his first full international goal.
They had several other chances to put away this game with Samuel Chukwueze and Samuel Kalu guilty of selfish play.
Goalkeeper Francis Uzoho also justified his recall with two saves in the first half including a brave, one-on-one stop inside his box.
The Eagles appeared to have won this first-ever clash between the two countries as they kept shape back in defence as the hosts chased the game but were let down by their final ball.
However, the home team got back into reckoning first through Manchester City’s Zinchenkov smart finish in the 77th minute and moments later they got the equalizer rather controversially courtesy of Roman Yaremchuk.
The closing moments also saw stand-in skipper William Ekong forced out and a Ukraine winner chalked off in stoppage time for offside.