Nigeria lost their opening group game of the CHAN 2014 tournament to Mali at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.
Gbolahan Salami’s second-half header was insufficient to overturn Abdoulaye Sissoko and Adama Traore’s strikes early on, and the Super Eagles team B ended the day third in Group A, after South Africa had earlier defeated Mozambique 3-1 in the opening fixture of the tournament.
The coach Stephen Keshi-led side failed to assume control of the proceeding early on in the first-half, while their opponents posed more threat on the attack.
Mali claimed the lead in the 17th minute when Sissoko broke free on the right flank to release a fierce shot past Chigozie Agbim into the net by the help of a slight Azubuike Egwuekwe’s deflection.
The Malians could have doubled their lead few minutes after getting in the ascendancy but twice lacked precision in front of goal.
Abubakar Ibrahim’s attempt was then parried by Malian goalkeeper, Soumaila Diakite.
Mali got off to a better start in the second-half and immediately forced a corner in the opening minute as the Nigerian defence looked too porous to withstand their prodding. It, however, took a purposeful effort from the Eagles defenders to clear a goal-bound shot from the line from the resultant corner.
But the Nigerian defence soon made way for the second goal in the 49th minute when Traore’s superb shot went through the legs of Agbim.
Substitute Salami pulled one back for Nigeria in the 54th minute.
Midway through the second-half Cheick Doumbia had the opportunity to increase Mali’s lead but let fly a powerful effort before Chrisantus Ejike produced an inviting cross into the goal area, which met none of the home-based Eagles player, as the encounter turned into a dingdong affair.
Agbim was called into action in the 78th minute, after Traore broke into the area only for his shot to be saved by the goalkeeper.
Nigeria’s last attempt to salvage the situation flew over the bar as Mali claimed a deserved draw to go second in Group A behind the host.