Dakar - Nigeria’s Dream Team shot to the top of Group B of
the Africa U-23 Cup of Nations after edging Mali 3-2 in M’Bour on Sunday.
A tough and keenly-contested game was split into two halves
as 1996 Olympic champions Nigeria raced to a 3-0 lead at half–time but could
still have shared the points at the end.
Siasia’s Dream Team soaked up early pressure as Mali rocked
Emmanuel Daniel’s crossbar as early as the first minute, and the West African
rivals made some good runs into the Nigerian area. However, on 16 minutes,
Tunisia–based forward Junior Ajayi sweetly back–heeled into the Malian net
after a good run down the left by Usman Mohammed.
Mohammed turned goalscorer 18 minutes later, sweeping into
the net with his right foot after Sincere Seth ran down the right flank and cut
back into the box, with Ajayi missing the first touch.
Ajayi completed his brace on the dot of half –time, latching
on brilliantly to the ball as goalkeeper Djigui Diarra parried a hot shot from
Also read: Dream Team arrive Senegal, set for Mali
The Malians came into the second half much stronger and
determined, while the Dream Team appeared relaxed. It took only nine minutes
for the Malians to reduce the deficit, as Ndifreke Effiong tripped a Malian
forward in the box. Adama Niane converted beautifully.
Mali got a second as the Dream Team allowed them all the
play. Souleymane Sissoko scored from a quick break from the left and the
Malians now had belief they could turn it around.
With 15 minutes to go, Mali came so close, but Daniel saved
from Adama Traore before the rebound narrowly missed target. A rasping shot
from a free–kick in added time sailed over, and handed the Dream Team the three
Egypt and Algeria had earlier played a 1-1 draw in the first
match of Group B, meaning the Dream Team now heads that pool. Nigeria next play
Egypt on Wednesday while Algeria will take on Mali.
In Saturday’s Group A matches, host Senegal shot down South Africa
3-1, while Zambia lost 2-1 to Tunisia. On Tuesday, Senegal will take on Tunisia
in a top-of-the-table battle, while South Africa battles ZambiaFor
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