Nigeria’s Flying Eagles came from behind to defeat Dominican Republic in their FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2023 opener on Sunday at Mendoza Stadium.
Although the African representatives went into the encounter as favourites, they had to dig deep to nick the maximum points but in an unconvincing manner.
Their opponents were unlucky not to cause a major upset as former Katsina United man, Samson Lawal, nailed their coffin when it mattered most.
Dominican Republic, playing in their first-ever FIFA World Cup match at any level, took the lead after 23 minutes when Benjamin Fredrick was adjudged to have fouled Guillermo De Peno inside the area. Captain Edison Azcona took responsibility from the spot to fire home his nation’s maiden World Cup strike.
The Flying Eagles levelled soon after, though, when goalkeeper Xavier Valdez failed to claim a long throw which De Peno inadvertently flicked into his own net. Valdez was left bloodied by the collision, but he recovered quickly to deny the dangerous Jude Sunday soon after with a fine diving save.
The Flying Eagles continued to push in the second half and completed the comeback with 20 minutes to go, as Samson Lawal pounced on a poor Israel Boatwright back pass to slot beyond Valdez.
Nigeria and Dominican Republic will return to U-20 World Cup action on Wednesday against Italy and Brazil respectively.
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