Again, U-23 Eagles fail to inspire, hold Egypt to 2-2 draw
Nigeria walks tight rope
It has become a pattern at the on-going African U-23 Nations Cup. Nigeria yesterday raced to a 2-0 lead in the first half of their game against Egypt in Mbour, only to crumble in the second 45 minutes, allowing the Pharaohs to come back with two goals of their own. It would have been worse as the Egyptians missed some goal scoring opportunities towards the end of the game.
Against Mali on Sunday, the U-23 Eagles started in like manner, earning a 3-0 advantage only to allow the Malians to retrieve two goals. Nigeria eventually won 3-2.
Nigeria must get at least a draw and hope that Egypt fail to beat Mali to qualify. A win for Nigeria against Algeria will gain it the semifinals ticket, while the U-23 Eagles will crash out if Egypt beats Mali and they fail to beat Algeria on Saturday.
Yesterday’s game in Mbour took Nigeria to the second position in Group B with four points, while Algeria, who beat Mali 2-0 in the earlier game of the day, is now top of the standings with four points and a better goals difference than Nigeria.
Egypt is third with two points, while Mali is pointless and has already been eliminated from the race for next year’s Rio Olympics.
On Saturday, Nigeria will battle Algeria in Dakar, while Egypt takes on Mali to determine the semi-finalists.
Nigeria took the lead fortuitously after 20 minutes when Egypt’s skipper, Rami Rabia, was penalized for handling a Stanley Dimgba cross in his box, when it seemed the ball hit him on his thighs.
Oghenekaro Etebo converted the spot kick to give the U-23 Eagles the lead.
The Warri Wolves midfielder doubled the lead again from the spot when another Egyptian defender handled the ball in his box.
After that, the Nigerian defence stood firm to thwart Egypt’s efforts at getting back into the game in the first half.
The tide changed in the second half with the Pharaohs swamping all over Nigeria. Nigeria’s goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel thwarted the Pharaohs on at least three occasions.
However, Egypt began a remarkable fight back with Ramdan Sobi’s header from inside the six-yard box halving the deficit.
An own goal off the boots of Nigerian defender, Chizoba Amaefule, in the 52nd-minute evened scores, allowing for a nail-biting end to the game.
Nigeria will meet Algeria on Saturday, while Egypt will play Mali on the same day.