Nigeria Under-23 national team edged closer to qualification for the Africa U-23 Championship with a hard fought 2-1 win over Congo in Port-Harcourt on Sunday.
Second-half brace by Junior Ajayi ensured the coach Samson Siasia hosts take a 2-1 home advantage into the second leg, scheduled for a fortnight from now.
The Congolese will however be aiming to build on their away goal, which came on 65 minutes courtesy of Miose Nkounkou.
The winners of the two-legged tie progress into the group stages of the 2015 Caf Under-23 Championships, which will be used to decide Africa’s representatives at Rio 2016 Olympics.
Nigeria got off to a fine start at the Adokiye Amesiamaka stadium, Port-Harcourt, but threw away a host of early chances.
Ajayi could have broken the deadlock in the opening ten minutes, but lifted his shot high with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Nath Boys’ Segun Oduduwa also missed his chance, as both teams went into the break deadlocked.
Dream Team VI hit the ground running in the second half, with Ajayi capitalising on a goalkeeping blunder by Mafoumbi to open scoring in the 48th minute.
The 3SC striker then got on the end of Daniel Etor’s free-kick to head in Nigeria’s second a couple of minutes later.
Nkounkou took advantage of a poor defending by Nigeria to grab a vital away goal and leave the tie open.
The coach Samson Siasia-led side are assured of a $60,000 (around 13m Naira) benefit from the Governor of River States, Nyesom Wike.
The 2015 Caf U-23 Championship is slated for Senegal and the top 3 teams out of 8 will qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games.