Mali defeated reigning champions Nigeria in their opening African U20 Championship fixture last night.
The Eaglets won 1-0 at the Ahmed Zabana stadium in Oran, Algeria.
It was a tactical performance from Mali, who sat back and effectively ‘parked the bus’ before breaking on the counter attack and managed to get an early goal when Adama Niane scored after 13 minutes with a powerful drive from inside the Nigerian penalty area. A headed clearance from a Mali corner fell at his feet and he drove a fierce effort between a number of bodies which eventually found itself in the back of the net.
Malian goalkeeper Ali Yirango kept the Nigerians at bay for the rest of the game keeping out efforts from Olarenwaju Kayode and Adama Traore in particular. Salisu Gero crossed for Kayode deep into the second half which should have been the equaliser but Kayode was unable to make a connection and left Yirango with an easy save.
Abduljeleel Ajagun fired a free kick over the crossbar in the closing minutes which really summed up Nigeria’s game – a host of opportunities but no real conviction or conversion.
Elsewhere in Group B, Congo and Gabon played out a goalless draw.
In Group A, Algeria drew 0-0 with Benin and Ghana lost 2-1 against Egypt.