The Golden Eaglets on Wednesday yet again confirmed their supremacy over their Malian counterparts with another 2-0 win at the WAFU B Tournament in Togo.
Two goals in the second half by Orji Okonkwo and Kehinde Ayinde cemented the Golden Eaglets’ top-place finish in Group B with the maximum six points following an identical 2-0 win against their West African foes earlier on Monday.
Coach Emmanuel Amuneke kept faith with the same starting line-up he used on Monday and the only notable change for Mali was goalkeeper Samuel Diarra who replaced Traore Alou.
But it was the Malians that started on the offensive after Togolese referee Kossi Azaleko signalled Nigeria to take the mandatory kick-off. As early as the third minute of the match, the Malians nearly went in front but were denied by brilliant Amos Benjamin in goal for the Golden Eaglets.
The Nigerian youngsters responded well and both Kehinde Ayinde and Kingsley Michael buried the ball behind goalkeeper Suleiman in the 15th and 26thth minute respectively but referee Azaleko ruled both goals off-side. He also cancelled out a goal by the Malians in the 18th due to off side.
Azaleko was jeered by the fans towards the end of the first half for disallowing what looked like a legitimate goal for the Golden Eaglets orchestrated from a sweet passing movement by the quartet of Orji Okonkwo; Ayinde; Dauda Ganiyu and Jack Ipalibo.
But the stadium finally came alive in the second half with the Eaglets on the offensive and they were soon rewarded when Ayinde sent a perfect cross for Okonkwo to nod home the first goal in the 48th minute. The goal brought confidence into the Eaglets and they held on to the lead despite occasional threats by the Malians. From the 70th minute, the Nigerians virtually dominated the game but the second goal of the match did not come until the 84th minute.
Man of the match, Eaglets’ skipper, Kelechi Nwakali sent a long range pass to Abdulganiyu who side-stepped two opposing defenders before releasing the ball for Ayinde to put behind goalkeeper Diarra for the second goal of the match.
The Golden Eaglets will now face the runners up of
Group A in one of the semi-finals on Thursday