Nigeria’s Super Eagles began 2015 with a loss after a 0-1 defeat to the Cote d’Ivoire in a friendly international in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The largely home-based team held off the experienced Ivorian side till the 84th minute when Salomon Kalou got the winner for the Elephants who are preparing for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
Nigeria started the game brightly and nearly got their noses in front from a corner kick but the final touch was not there to trouble Cote d’Ivoire.
Gambo Mohammed played a delightful through ball for Mfon Udoh to latch on in the 15th minute but the Ivorian goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohou was quick to shut him out.
The Elephants had a great chance to forge ahead in the 28th minute after Gervinho brilliantly skinned Solomon Kwambe on the right and crossed for Yaya Toure whose shot was blocked by Chigozie Agbim as the Nigerian defence cleared the rebound.
Serge Aurier got behind a Serey Die corner kick but could not keep his effort on target as the Ivorians upped the tempo towards the end of the first half with Yaya Toure leading the charge.
The chances were far between each other as Nigeria were able to contain their more illustrious counterparts at the end of the first half.
Swiss-born midfielder Steven Ukoh came on for Kingsley Sokari in the second half after the Enyimba player picked up an injury early in the second half.
The Super Eagles were gaining in confidence as Rabiu Ali and new entrant Ukoh pulled the strings for Nigeria but lack of decisiveness in the final third was their bane.
Gervinho, though isolated for long periods of the game was always a constant threat and only a last ditch tackle from Azubuike Egwuekwe in the 63rd minute prevented the Roma man from getting through at Agbim’s goal.
The game dragged into a drab fest as the game got into the deep with end with both sides content to hold on to the ball around the midfield areas, reports supersport.com.
Rabiu Ali then gifted Cote d’Ivoire their winner. His mistake gave Cheick Tiote the chance to run into the Nigerian defence and cross for Salomon Kalou to score for the Elephants in the 84th minute.
Kalou had another chance two minutes later to put Cote d’Ivoire in the driver’s seat but could not connect his header on target as the game fizzled out as a contest.
The Super Eagles will continue their United Arab Emirates tour on January 17 when they take on the Falcons of Jediane of Sudan in Abu Dhabi.