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U17 AFCON: Golden Eaglets pip Zambia to win opener

GoNigeria’s Golden Eaglets started their U17 AFCON campaign in the best possible way with a narrow 1-0 win over Zambia in Group B. The two-time champions found their winner in the second half after impressing all game.

In a repeat of their meeting in Group A in 2015 that saw Nigeria win 3-1, the Golden Eaglets were up against the Young Chipolopolo. The Nduka Ugbade-tutored boys were playing their first competitive match since winning the WAFU B U17 tournament, and they looked like a proper team.

With both Emmanuel Michael and Yahaya Lawali playing key roles from full-back and captain Precious Williams running the attack, the young Nigerian boys ran the show against the Zambians in the opening exchanges, with only an offside flag denying them an opening goal.

The Young Chipolopolo grew into the game as the half wore on but could not find a way past Golden Eaglets goalkeeper Richard Odoh. The Zambians came closest to scoring when they hit the crossbar in the closing stages of the first half.

Nigeria started the second half in control of the game but failed to find the all-important opener that they needed to assert their control. Zambia had the better chance of scoring but Odoh pulled off an impressive save to keep the match scoreless.

With 76 minutes on the clock, the Golden Eaglets finally got their breakthrough. A short corner resulted in Michael whipping a cross into the box, and the ball fell for impressive winger Abdullahi Abubakar in the box. The youngster lashed at the ball, only for a Zambian arm to block the goal bound effort. The ball, however, dropped kindly for Favour Daniel to sweep home a first-time finish.

The Young Chipolopolo threatened in attack after going behind but once again failed to work Odoh in the Nigerian goal.

With the game approaching its conclusion, coach Ugbade opted to send in highly-rated young forward Light Eke in place of captain Williams. Eke showed good control and trickery on the ball with his first few touches of the ball.

In the closing stages, the Golden Eaglets launched a counterattack that saw the lively Abdullahi pushed to the ground inside the box. Eke stepped up to take the penalty but saw a very weak effort saved by the Zambian goalkeeper.

Nigeria held on for an impressive win to start their campaign in Algeria, heading to the top of Group B ahead of the other match between Morocco and South Africa. Impressive right-back Lawali was named Man of the Match after a brilliant showing for the side.

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