Friday Aug 12, 2016. 23:41
NPFL All-Stars will now face last season's beaten finalists in the UEFA Champions League Atletico Madrid in tomorrow’s third-place playoffs after they lost 4-1 to Malaga in the semi-final of the invitational Trofeo Carranza Tournament.
Malaga will now battle Cadiz in the tournament’s final.
READ: Halftime Report - Malaga 2 NPFL All-Stars 1
It was an improved showing by the Nigerians after a very subdued performance against Valencia, which they lost 2-1.
Skipper and goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa was outstanding, pulling off saves in the eighth, 10th
and 21 minutes as coach Salisu Yusuf rung several changes following the departure of five Enyimba players to a CAF Champions League tie at Zamalek of Egypt.
The La Liga side took the lead after 22 minutes through a header by Zdravko Kuzmanovic off a corner.
However, the NPFL All-Stars drew level through an own goal in the 32nd
minute after Ismaila Gata had first failed to beat goalkeeper Carlos Kameni in a one-on-one situation.
Malaga regained the lead after 38 minutes, when the dangerous Sandro Ramires dashed into the box before firing an unstoppable shot beyond goalkeeper Ezenwa.
A minute after the interval, Ramires drilled home Malaga’s third goal, before substitute Yousseff En Neyri made it 4-1 in the 88th
minute, when he smashed home another unstoppable blaster past substitute ‘keeper Emeka Nwabulu.
Bright sparks for the NPFL All-Stars were individual performances of Ezenwa and Rangers midfielder Obinna Nwobodo, who posted his all-energy game just as he has been doing season long for his club back in Nigeria.
Malaga attacked from the onset and kept the Nigeria league selected on the back foot for the first 20 minutes.
They also dominated the second half with the NPFL selected launching sporadic attacks which hardly troubled Cameroon’s Kameni in the Malaga goal as the gulf in class between the two leagues again showed clearly.