Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets yesterday defeated hosts Tanzania 5-4 in the opening match of the 13th Africa U-17 Cup of Nations played in Dar es Salaam.
The five-time world champions threw away several opportunities in a match they had in their hands but almost threw away as a result of sluggish marking, carelessness at the rear and slack finishing.
They could have been one goal up as early as 20 seconds into the game but a poor shot by biggest culprit Olakunle Olusegun with the goal gaping was easily thwarted by goalkeeper Yahya Mwinyi. There were more wastages, by Wisdom Ubani and Ayobami Amoo, before Olatomi Olaniyan put Nigeria in front in the 21st minute by booting into the net from a rebound after an initial effort stopped by Mwinyi.
Tanzania replied straight from the restart, Edmund John stroking past a badly -positioned goalkeeper Suleman Shaibu, who showed little confidence all afternoon. Eight minutes later, Nigeria regained their lead after Ubani latched onto a high pass, peeled a defender and placed the ball to the far side of Mwinyi.
It was 3-1 seven minutes later – the impressive Amoo skillfully rounding Mwinyi from a pass following a free-kick that was initially blocked.
The Eaglets were expected to start the second period from where they left off in the first, only to resort to defending and collapsing in a manner unimaginable. They were soon behind after conceding three goals in seven minutes against a side charged by crowd support and a Nigerian team that encouraged them to launch onslaught after onslaught.
Kelvin John scored a beauty with a 25-yard strike that Shaibu had no answer to, in the 52nd minute, and two penalties followed quickly, scored by Morice Abraham and Edmund John.
In the 65th minute, Olusegun headed straight at Mwinyi as Nigeria attacked, but Ubani equalized with a spectacular shot from a free-kick in the 72nd minute.
Six minutes later, Ibraheem Jabaar regained Nigeria’s lead with a well-placed shot from the edge of the box that Mwinyi’s flailing hands could not reach.
Victory took the Eaglets top of Group A ahead of the other clash between Angola and Uganda. On Wednesday, the Eaglets will take on Angola at the same venue while the Serengeti Boys will be up against Uganda.
Victory on Wednesday will most likely take the Eaglets to the semi finals, and a place at the FIFA U-17 World Cup finals taking place in Brazil later this year.