Nigeria’s hopes of participating in next year’s Africa and World U20 Championships were jeopardised on Wednesday after the country’s U20 side, coached by Ladan Bosso fell to a 0-1 defeat to bitter rivals Ghana.
The Flying Eagles drew their opening game in the West African Football Union (WAFU) UFOA-B U20 tournament 1-1 against the Petit Elephant of Cote d’Ivoire on Sunday and needed at least a point against Ghana to be safe ahead of the final group game.
However, midfielder Precious Boah curled home a perfect free kick seven minutes from time to give the Black Satellites not just the victory but the bragging rights in this historically fierce West African Derby.
Nigeria dominated the first half of the game decided at the Stade Charles de Gaulles in Porto Novo, Benin Republic and had two goals rightly chalked off by the match officials, both by striker Chukwuibukem Ikwuemesi who was making his first appearance of the tournament.
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First, the Giant Brillars star poked home Wisdom Ubani’s undercooked effort from over the goal line with replays suggesting that the ball might have ended up at the back of the net if the lanky striker had allowed it to roll.
The second effort was chalked off after Ikwuemesi acrobatically finished Azeez Oseni’s free kick from the right flank but the ball had struck his arm before applying the exquisite finish.
Nigeria continued to dominate in the second half and Bosso sent in Israel based forward Peter Olawale early in place of Ikwuemesi. It was the striker who then missed Nigeria’s best chance of the game in the 75th minute, hitting straight at the Ghanaian goalkeeper from point blank range.
Kwara United defender Isaiah Ejeh then committed himself into bringing down Ghana’s Abdul Mugees Zakaria, allowing Boah to curl home beyond Nigerian goalkeeper Kolawole Oladipo to clinch a semi final ticket for the Ghanaians after just one game in the competition.
Ghana will now face Cote d’Ivoire on Saturday with Nigeria bringing out their calculators and prayers, hoping that the Ivorians are either beaten by a two-goal margin or they lose by a lone goal and also get a player sent off.
Cumbersome, isn’t it?