Sunday Nov 10, 2019. 12:00
Defending champions Nigeria got off the worst possible start at the 2019 Africa Under-23 Cup of nations after a 1-0 loss to Ivory Coast in their Group B encounter on Saturday in which they were also reduced to 10 men.
Silas Gnaka scored the winner for the Ivory Coast from the penalty spot after a foul by Olisa Ndah saw him receive his marching orders.
After a tense opening period that provided little in the way of goalscoring opportunities, the game came alive in the second half.
Nigeria’s Taiwo Iwonyi struck the crossbar with a header, but minutes later the team were behind.
Ndah fouled Youssouf Dao in the box and while Gnaka’s effort was partially saved by Nigeria goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar, the ball did cross the line.
“It was a difficult match for both teams,” Nigeria coach Imama Amapakabo admitted. “I said before all the teams here want to win this tournament. First games are usually tough.
“We lost today but we still have a lot to play for. Football is about small details and that’s what made difference today.”
Ivorian coach Soualiho Haidara was delighted with the win ahead of their second meeting against South Africa on Tuesday.
“It was very important for us to win today. Nigeria is a strong and respectable team. I thank my players for their efforts and we will continue to fight. I think our team deserves victory today.”