Flying Eagles win seventh African title
NIGERIA’s Flying Eagles yesterday in Dakar, Senegal secured its seventh title of the Under-20 African Youth Championship defeating the young Senegalese by a lone goal scored by Bernard Bulbwa in the 20th minute.
Ghana also beat Mali 3-1 to clinch the third position.
The strike, a candidate for the goal of the tournament was achieved with great skills by Bulbwa who showed composure outside the box before releasing an unstoppable volley to the top corner of the net.
Flying Eagles played in their first final since 2011 when they defeated Cameroun 3-2 after extra time. It was a very tense atmosphere at the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium in Dakar.
Over 40,000 fans were at the match venue to watch the two exciting teams in action. Earlier in the tournament, Nigeria won 3-1 against the hosts in a Group match.
Sidy Sarr was the first to scare the Nigerians with a long-range shot which was comfortably gathered by Joshua Enaholo. The MFM FC number one goalkeeper was called to duty again in the 3rd minute when he came off his line to rescue his team.
Zaharadeen Bello made contact in the 18-yard area and brought down El Hadji Malick Niang, but the centre referee wasn’t interested in Senegal’s appeals. Enaholo was the saviour when he made himself big to deny Ibrahima Wadji in a one-on-one situation in the 12th minute. The Flying Eagles gradually began to settle down to their usual free flowing game and utilised the runs of captain Musa Muhammed.
They were soon in front through a moment of pure magic from Bernard Bulbwa in the 20th minute. Bulbwa showed great skills outside the box before unleashing an unstoppable screamer into the top corner of the net. It was fit to be an award-winning goal in the tournament.
Enugu Rangers midfielder, Obinna Nwobodo skied a 40-metre shot after some neat interchanges. The crowd urged on the Young Lions and Mouhameth Sane headed a right-wing cross into the safe hands of Enaholo in the 27th minute. Flying Eagles played a tactical game and tried to exploit the weak area of the hosts.
Despite leading one-nil as at 31 minutes, coach Manu Garba kept dishing out instructions to his wards from the sideline. Senegal searched for an equaliser before the break with Roger Gomis and Moussa Kone coming close. The Flying Eagles defenders were ball watching as Sane nodded a Sarr corner kick to the cross bar in the 41st minute.
Nigeria U20 led Senegal U20 1-0 at halftime.
A cracker from Niang in the 47th minute was brilliantly tipped away by Enaholo. In the 54th minute, Senegal fought hard to score, but the Nigerian defence line cleared the danger after a goal mouth scramble. Bulbwa got on to the end of a free-kick from Muhammed, but Ibrahima Sy produced a point-blank save to keep out the danger. One minute after the hour mark, Enaholo spilled a goal bound effort, but Niang couldn’t capitalise on his error.
Taiwo Awoniyi was presented with a chance when he was put through on goal, but Senegal goalie Sy was alert. A moment of drama in the Flying Eagles’ area almost exposed Enoholo. However the reliable lad proved decisive with a good save. In the 88th minute, Awoniyi released an ambitious shot from outside the area, an effort which produced a dipping save from Sy. Earlier on Sunday evening Ghana beat Mali 3-1 in the third/fourth play-off to claim the Broneze medal.