High-Scoring Eaglets Fail To Lift U-17 Trophy

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The hope of high-scoring Golden Eaglets of Nigeria revenging the defeat suffered in the hands of their Ivorian counterparts and and win the African U-17 Championship in Morocco melted away yesterday as they suffered their second defeat to the same team and settled for the silver medal.

Kelechi Iheanacho.
Kelechi Iheanacho.

The team handled by Manu Garba with Nduka Ugbade and Emmanuel Amuneke as assistants went into the lead eight minutes into the game through Prince Omego to raise hope that they will not only revenge their defeat but crush the young Elephants like they did to other teams on their way to the final.

That was not to be as the rugged and hard fighting Ivorians did not want to fall to Nigeria like their seniors did to the Super Eagles at the 2013 Africa Nations Cup in South Africa and so took the game to the Eaglets.

The Eaglets took the lead through Prince Omego in the eight minute, raising hope that they were not only on a revenge mission but were going to crush the Ivorians like they did to other teams on their way to the final.

Chidiebere Nwakali took a corner kick that forced a save from the Ivorian goal minder Aboubakar Diabagate who punched a goal-bound header back into play and Omego reacted quickest to poke home the first goal of the match.

The Eaglets could have doubled their lead some minutes later when the ball found Musa Yahaya all by himself in the box but with everyone looking for the off-side whistle which did not come, Yahaya dragged his short wide of the post.

However, the hard-fighting young Elephants, not wanting to fall like their seniors did to the Super Eagles at the 2013 Africa Nations Cup took the game to the Nigerian lads and it paid off in the 26th minute when they equalised through Chris Bile Bedia to send their camp wild with jubilation.

The Baby Elephants won a free-kick in the Nigeria half. Bedia used his height advantage to jump furthest and flick a header into the top corner of Eaglets’ goalkeeper, Adeyinka Adewale’s net for the equalizer.

Just after that Success Isaac was thwarted by Diabagate after beating his marker but the goalkeeper closed the angel forcing the competition top-goal scorer to blaze his effort.

The teams engaged in a fierce battle and both defenses stood solid in an evenly contest match. The Baby Elephants came close to a second goal when captain Yannick Kessie played a through ball to Maiga only for Musa Muhammed to come with a crucial challenge.

Nigeria went down to ten men in the 73rd minute when defender Akinjide Idowu ‘s challenge on Aboubacar Keita with a raised arm got him sent off but the Eaglets made changes and kept on the pressure as a see-saw battle ensued.

The contest could not provide a winner and it was left to a penalty shoot-out to settle the matter and the Ivorians scored all their five penalties through Kessie, Diallo Ismael, Angban, Keita and Dogbole Niangbo who scored the winning penalty after Chidiebere Nwakali has missed for Nigeria. Success, Ifeanyi Mathew, Yahaya and Musa Muhammed converted their kicks for the Eaglets.

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