Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets won their opening match at the 13th Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 5-4 against hosts Tanzania in Dar es Salaam on Sunday.
It was a match which saw the hosts collapsing in the latter part of the match against the five-time world champions.
The Eaglets missed several scoring opportunities in a match they had in their hands but almost threw away due to sluggish marking, carelessness at the rear and slack finishing.
They could have been one goal up after 20 seconds of play but a poor shot by 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.
He booted into the net from a rebound after an initial effort was stopped by Mwinyi.
Tanzania replied straight from the restart, when Edmund John stroked past a badly-positioned goalkeeper Suleiman Shaibu, who showed little confidence all afternoon.
Eight minutes later, Nigeria regained their lead after Ubani latched onto a high pass, turned a defender before placing the ball to the far side of Mwinyi.
It was 3-1 seven minutes later, after the impressive Amoo skilfully rounded 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, but they resorted to defending and duly collapsedin a manner unimaginable.
They were soon behind after conceding three goals in seven minutes against a side charged by crowd support.
The Nigerian side even encouraged them to launch onslaught after onslaught, through their act of sitting back.
Kelvin John scored a beauty with a 25–yard strike which Shaibu had no answer to, in the 52nd minute.
Two penalty kicks followed quickly, scored by Morice Abraham and Edmund John.
In the 65th minute, Olusegun headed straight at Mwinyi as Nigeria attacked, but Ubani equalised 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 which Mwinyi’s flailing hands could not reach.
Victory took the Eaglets top of Group A ahead of the other clash between Angola and Uganda.
The Eaglets will on Wednesday 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 holding in Brazil later this year. (NAN)