John Obi Mikel put in a tireless effort as the Super Eagles beat Nigeria league side Plateau United 3-0 at the Abuja National Stadium on Wednesday.
The 29-year old was one of the 10 players introduced at the start of the second half by Coach Gernot Rohr in the practice match and playing in a slightly more withdrawn role, the midfielder excelled.
Mikel played in a midfield-three comprising of Ogenyi Onazi and Kelechi Iheanacho and while he didn’t play in his traditional number 10 role in the game, he played slightly ahead of Onazi, who was the deepest of the midfielders, with Iheanacho playing in the hole behind the striker.
What took people’s interest was not where Mikel played, however, but his work rate in an inconsequential game that was only arranged to improve their match fitness ahead of this weekend’s World Cup qualifier against Zambia.
The Chelsea midfielder put his foot into tackles, and was always eager to find a teammate with a defence splitting pass. He probably would have shone brighter if the pitch was better. The pitch at the Abuja Stadium was hugely sand-filled with the grass pulling off at every kick of the ball and with a heavy downpour, it became muddy.
But that notwithstanding, the Nigeria skipper asserted himself well as the Super Eagles took control of a game they almost lost in the first half.
It was a tepid display in the first 45 minutes, with Rohr experimenting with players that will most likely not make the starting eleven in Ndola on Sunday, with Ahmed Musa the biggest disappointment.