U-23 Eagles Survive Scare, Beat Mali 3-2 | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

Slider, SPORT

U-23 Eagles Survive Scare, Beat Mali 3-2

Posted: Nov 30, 2015 at 10:19 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Nigeria’s quest for a spot at the men’s football event of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games got off to a nervy start on Sunday at the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal as Samson Siasia’s wards ran out with an unconvincing 3-2 win over Mali with Junior Ajayi grabbing a brace, while Usman Mohammed got Nigeria’s other goal.

Ajayi opened the floodgates of goals in the 16th minute before Mohammed increased the tally 18 minutes later. Ajayi then made it 3-0 for Nigeria on the dot of 45 minutes to all but seal the game for the Nigerians. FC Nantes of France prodigy, Adama Niane, pulled a goal back for the Malians from the penalty spot in the 54th minute before Soulemayne Sissoko ensured a nervous end to the encounter for the Nigerians with his side’s second of the game on 65 minute.

And maybe it could had been a different story all together for the Malians had they not been denied by the post as early as the 38th second of the game with Emmanuel Daniel, in goal for the Nigerians, unable to do anything to prevent Niane’s shot from inside the penalty area from getting past him and cannoning off the crossbar and back into play.

On 14 minutes, a mishit clearance from the Malian goalkeeper fell onto the path of Ajayi, but the CS Sfaxien of Tunisia striker was unable to direct his shot past the retreating Malian goalkeeper, much to Siasia’s disgust. But the former 36 Lions of Lagos and Shooting Stars of Ibadan player made up for his earlier miss two minutes later as he was at the right place to convert Ndifreke Effiong’s low cross from the left flank with a cheeky back heel. Fourteen minutes later, a similar move, this time from the right flank by fullback, Seth Sincere, fell onto the path of Mohammed and the Taraba United midfielder duly obliged with a cool finish.

And on the dot of half time, a stinging drive from the edge of the area by Nigeria captain, Azubuike Okechukwu, proved too hot for the Malian goalkeeper who dropped it onto the path of Ajayi who promptly dispatched the ball into the back of the net. Whatever the Malians were told at the break definitely had the desired effect as they swarmed on the Nigerians from the start of the second half and pulled a goal back nine minutes after the restart after Oghenekaro Etebo conceded a penalty which Niane slammed into the back of Daniel’s net.

Sissoko then made it 3-2 for the Malian Eagles with a calm finish from inside the penalty area. But there were no further goals afterwards as the tired Nigerians gave a sigh of relief at the final blast of the referee’s whistle after close to five minutes of added time. Nigeria now top Group B ahead of Egypt and Algeria, who played out a 1-1 draw earlier in the day, and will next play the Egyptians on Wednesday.