Golden Eaglets on Monday made good their promise of winning their first international match at the WAFU B Under-17 Tournament in Togo by edging out Mali 2-0 in the first of their Group B’s double header at the Stade Municipal.
Nigeria’s first goal was courtesy of Najeeb Hamza via a penalty kick in the 34th minute when striker Orji Okonkwo was brought down by the Malian goalkeeper inside the box while Dauda Abdulganiyu secured the second goal in the 80th minute.
The match, which was played under floodlight, was watched by an enthusiastic crowd including Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Togo, Ambassador Mathew Sunday Adoli; hordes of people from the Nigerian business and student community in Lome. Also in attendance were Alhaji Yussuf Fresh, a board member of the NFF who is also the Golden Eaglets’ Leader of Delegation to Togo and Mr. Patrick Pascal, a special assistant to NFF President, Alhaji Aminu Maigari.
Golden Eaglets clearly made their intention known soon after Ivorian referee, Bievenue Sinko signalled the Malians to take the kick off.
The Nigerian youngsters nearly went into the lead barely five minutes into the game when Dauda Abdulganiyu shot was deflected by the Malian goalkeeper, Traore Alou. Two minutes later, Okonkwo had a header also touched away by the agile Alou yet again.
There was a flawless understanding between Ganiyu, Okonkwo and petit Kehinde Ayinde in the attack as the Golden Eagles mounted ceaseless pressure on their West African foes. Ayinde spirited effort in the 25th minute after dribbling his way into the box was equally foiled by the Malian goalkeeper.
Then in the 33rd minute, Okonkwo broke free and was racing towards goal alone only to be hacked down by the Alou for what was clearly a red card offence since he was the last man of the Malian defence. But referee Sinko ‘erroneously’ flashed a yellow card but the resultant penalty kick was scored by Hamza in the 34th minute.
On the end, Golden Eaglets’ goalkeeper Amos Benjamin was virtually on holiday throughout the duration of the first half but on resumption of the second half, it was the Malians that displayed better initiatives.
It was Ganiyu that finally sealed victory for the Golden Eaglets when he waltzed through the Malian defence and fired a shot into the top corner for the second goal of the match in the 80th minute.
Both teams would again return to Stade Municipal on Wednesday for the second of their double -header to determine who tops Group B following the last minute withdrawal of Niger from the competition.