Nigeria’s Dream Team got their campaign at the ongoing CAF U-23 Championship off to a winning start, after edging the Junior Eagles of Mali in their Group B clash in M’ bour, Senegal on Sunday night.
Samson Siasia’s men endured a second half scare from their West African rivals to win 3-2 at the Stade Caroline Faye.
The Dream Team raced to a 3-0 lead at half time and looked lost in the second half as the Malians scored twice and threatened severally up till the final whistle.
The Nigerian side soaked up early pressure as Mali hit the crossbar as early as the first minute.
Nigeria however took the lead in the 16th minute, through Junior Ajayi who back –heeled into the Malian net after a good run down the left by Usman Mohammed.
Mali continued to chase the game but it was Nigeria who doubled their lead after 34 minutes, when Usman Mohammed turned in a loose ball from inside the box after a great cut-back by Sincere Seth.
But just a minute after the second goal, Nigeria goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel produced a big save when he blocked at point-blank range the dangerous Adama Traore.
Ajayi made it 3-0 at the end of the first half, after Mali goalkeeper Diarra failed to hold a powerful shot fired by skipper Azubuike Okechukwu from the edge of the box.
The Malians came into the second half much stronger and determined, scoring two quick goals through Adama Niane from the penalty spot after 55 minutes from a foul inside the box by Oghenekaro Etebo.
In the 65th minute, Souleymane Sissoko scored from a quick break from the left.
The Malians kept up the pressure and tested the Nigerian goal on several occasion, but Samson Siasia’s men were able to soak up the pressure and narrowly got the three points.
In the other game of the group, Egypt and Algeria played a 1-1 draw, meaning the Dream Team now tops the group.
Nigeria next play Egypt on Wednesday while Algeria will take on Mali.