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Under-23 AFCON: Nigeria beat Mali 3-2 after sloppy second-half display

By The Rainbow

Nigeria’s Under-23 team has gotten their campaign at the under-23 African Cup if Nations in Senegal, on a solid note with a 3-2 win over the Junior Eagles of Mali in a five- goal thriller.

Though it was not a cherring display by Nigerian lads who virtually went to sleep in the second half allowing the Malians to get to cancelling Nigeria’s 3-0 advantage at the half of the game.

Tunisia-based junior Ajayi netted a brace, while Usman Mohammed was on target for dream team six in the first half.

The Malians dominated the second half firing two quick goals in ten minutes, but the Under-23 team held on to pick their first three points.

With a dream strking pair of Liverpool's Taiwo Awoniyi and CF Sfaxien Junior Ajayi  in attack, Nigeria made a dream start when Ajayi netted the opener in the 15th minute.

Ajayi scored against the run of play, tipping in the ball with the back of his right foot.The goal seemed to fire Mali on with the likes of Salomon Diarra, Adaa Traore and captain Boubacar Diarra attacking the Nigerian defence, manned by Ndifreke Effiong, Sincere Seth, Segun Oduduwa and Zaharadeen Bello.

Even though they had the majority possession, Mali found Emmanuel Daniel in goal for Nigeria impregnable. The festive atmosphere in the stadium made the match all the more interesting as both west Africans went for each other's jugulars.

In the 30th minute, Diame Traore's free kick was blocked by the Nigerian defence line. Mali continued probing for their own goal but Nigeria stood firm and  took the lead in the 35th minute, when midfielder Usman Mohammed unleashed a  fiercesome strike into the back of Mali's net.

And in injury time of first half, Ajayi scored his second of the night, tapping in captain Azubuike Okechukwu's initial shot, looking like a  predator.

But in the second half, Mali gave Nigeria a scare when two goals, the first a penalty by  Adana Niane in the 54th minute and  and the second ten minutes later by Sisoko beat three ball watching Nigerians to score second goal for Mali.

Nigeria will be back to action on Wednesday against Egypt. A win for Nigeria will qualify them for the semi final.

Nigeria leads the group B with three points while group opponents Egypt and Algeria have a point each.

The Dream Team VI will face Egypt in their next game on Wednesday.

-Agency reports
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