Ten-man Nigeria national U23 team were beaten 2-0 by their Libyan counterparts in a 2019 U23 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Ben Guerdane, Tunisia on Wednesday afternoon.
One goal in each half condemned the Nigerian side coached by respected indigenous coach Imama Amapakabo to a crunchy defeat with the Nigerians having to play half of the game with ten men after goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar was sent off in first half stoppage time.
All Libya national teams now play away from their country due to the prolonged instability in their land and the modest city of Ben Guerdane which has a shocking, rickety artificial turf was picked for this encounter.
Libya went in front in the sixth minute through Zakaria al-Harish who showed great composure to finish between two Nigerian defenders after a long ball by the goalkeeper was flicked into his path by his strike partner.
Nigeria then dominated possession for the remainder of the half but could not really create good scoring chances. Nigeria’s best effort of the half which came through Bonaventure Dennis was turned away by the impressive Libyan goalkeeper.
Nigeria’s task was made the more arduous in stoppage time after Adamu raced out of his lines only to handle the ball while attempting to stop a rampaging Libyan counterattack after a Nigerian free kick was turned to a Libyan attack. The referee, Nil Laryea from Ghana showed him a straight red card for his effort. Flying Eagles goalkeeper Olawale Oremade came on for him with Bonaventure withdrawn.
The Nigerians continued to dominate play in the second half despite being a man short but while they created better chances, the Libyan goalkeeper remained a stumbling block. His best save of the game came on the hour mark when he denied Blessing Olabiran from an acute angle.
While the Nigerians continued to pour forward in search of an elusive equaliser, they were punished at the other end when a rare attack by the hosts in the 69th minute saw a gaping space in the left side of Nigerian defence which was well well exploited.
The Nigerian side captained by Okechukwu Azubuike could not find a headway then and thereafter and will have it all to do when they host the second leg at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba next Monday.