Lucky U-23 Eagles beat Mali 3-2
The U-23 Eagles romped to a 3-0 lead in the first half, but relied on Mali’s poor marksmanship and the grace of the bar to win 3-2 on a day many pundits wrote off the Malians after a poor opening half.
Former 3SC star, Junior Ajayi, scored twice, while Usman Mohammed got one as Nigeria took commanding lead in the first half.
But that was all the Nigerians could offer, as Mali chased the game in the second half, with Niane scoring from the penalty spot on the 54-minute after Oghenekaro Etebo fouled him inside the box.
Souleyman Sissoko made it 2-3 10 minutes later when he waltz through the Nigerian defence to beat Emmanuel Daniel.
That made for a nervy end to the game with the Nigerians struggling to fend off the sleek Malians.
Before Mali’s goals, they could have taken the lead in the first half, but the cross bar foiled Adama Traore’s effort.
Nigeria’s opening goal came in the 16th minute when Junior Ajayi back heeled Stanley Dimgba’s cross into the net.
It became 2-0 in the 34th minute when Usman Mohammed scrambled a loose ball into the net.
The dangerous Adama Traore would have reduced the tally a minute later, but goalkeeper Daniel was alive to his responsibilities as he blocked a point-blank effort from the Malian.
And just before the end of the first half, Ajayi capitalised on the failure of the Malian goalkeeper to hold Captain Azubuike Okechukwu’s shot to make it 3-0.
In the other game of Group B earlier in the day, Egypt and Algeria played out a 1-1 draw.