The Nigeria U23 team survived a huge scare in their opening game at the Africa U23 Cup of Nations taking place in Senegal as they managed to pip their Malian counterparts 3-2 on Sunday night.
The Dream Team VI almost blew up the three-goal lead they recorded in the first half as the Malians attempted a brave comeback in the Group B clash.
Tunisia-based Junior Ajayi got the opener for the Coach Samson Siasia tutored side as his back heel flip gave Nigeria the lead in the 16th minute.
The Dream Team VI doubled their lead 10 minutes before half time and this time it was Taraba United captain, Usman Mohammed that got the second goal of the night.
Ajayi was again on hand to extend Nigeria’s lead as he helped in the third goal in the extra time of the first half as the Dream Team looked to be in firm control of proceedings in the second Group B game.
However, the tables were almost turned around in the second half as the Malians attempted a comeback and their efforts saw them reduce the deficit in the 54th minute from the penalty spot.
Adama Niane was brought down in the Nigeria box and the player stood up to convert the resultant kick.
Barely ten minutes later, the Malians got another goal in through Soulimane Sissoko to make scores 3-2.
From then on, the Malians threw all they had at Nigeria to get the coveted equaliser but that was not to be as the Nigeria U23 held on to the slim win which was good enough to put them top in Group B after the first set of matches.
The ongoing Africa U23 Cup of Nations in Senegal also doubles as the Olympic Qualifiers. The top three from this tournament get an automatic ticket to represent Africa at the 2016 Rio Olympics Men’s Football event.