Published On: Mon, Mar 5th, 2018

How Nigerian midfielder Etebo stopped Messi


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In just his fifth game for Las Palmas since joining the Spanish side during the January transfer window, Nigerian midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo was faced with the daunting task of playing against Lionel Messi when they hosted Barcelona on Thursday, March 1.

Etebo was on from the start in the game, playing in two-man defensive midfield set-up by Las Palmas coach Paco Jémez.

Under Ernesto Valverde, the burden of creativity has been on Lionel Messi who now plays from the middle Jemez knew that. He played Etebo and Gomez Vincente in defensive midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation- they often switched to a 5-2-2-1 set-up.

Oghenekaro Etebo and Sergio BusquetsplayOghenekaro Etebo did well in midfield against the likes of Sergio Busquets (EPA)

The aim was to take block the runs and the incisive passing of Messi.

Etebo faced Messi one-on-one several times and was only beaten once by the Argentine. In the 66th minute, he got a yellow card for a foul on Messi.

Against established names like Sergio Busquets and Paulinho, Etebo also held his own.

Oghenekaro Etebo and PaulinhoplayHow Las Palmas midfielder Etebo stopped Messi La Liga clash (EPA)

Etebo’s number against Barcelona

Etebo’s heat map showed that he covered every blade of the grass against Barcelona. He had a passing accuracy of 91%, had two shots on goal, won 50% of his tackle, 30% of those against Messi, won all his aerial duels and twice intercepted Barcelona’s play.

Etebo and his midfield partner limited Messi to just four shots on target. Messi created just two chances for Barcelona and was successful in six of his take-ons.

But there is no stopping Messi who scored Barcelona’s only goal with a free-kick.

Messi’s stunning free-kick was not enough for Barcelona as a controversial penalty earned Las Palmas a 1-1 draw.

It was a game that proved his worth to Las Palmas. The La Liga club unenthusiastically unveiled the 22-year-old when they signed him on loan from Portuguese side C.D. Feirense in January 2018.

But the Nigeria international has impressed and has breathed life into Las Palmas with his energy and hard work in midfield.

He will look to continue his impressive performance when Las Palmas travel to face Celta Vigo on Monday, March 5.

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