The Golden Eaglets on Saturday beat the Diamond Zebras of Botswana 3-0 at the U.J Esuene Stadium in Calabar as they welcome back to the state Senator Liyel Imoke, the Executive Governor of Cross River State after almost three months of overseas vacation.
The game was an opportunity to test the readiness of the two teams ahead of the 2013 African Under-17 tournament in Morocco in April but significantly, it gave the Golden Eaglets the chance to thank Senator Imoke for being instrumental to their qualification for the continental tournament.
The players unfurled a large-size banner with a clear message: ‘Welcome Back, Governor Liyel Imoke...Golden Eaglets' Foremost Supporter.' Two other players, Ifeanyi Matthew and Taiwo Awoniyi who later grabbed the goals of the match, wore T-shirt with another message: ‘Welcome back, Gov. Imoke’ as the Governor smiled broadly in company of his wife, Mrs. Obioma Liyel-Imoke while being introduced to the team.
The Eaglets began the business of the day though after a tentative start. Striker Taiwo Awoniyi marked his debut for the national Under-17 team, with a superb goal when he finished off from a Bernard Bulbwa's pullout in the 16th minute.
The second goal did not arrive until some 15th minutes later but it was worth waiting for. Hardworking midfielder, Ifeanyi Matthew scored from a well-taken free kick from just outside the box that left goalkeeper Daniel Kedidimetse rooted to the spot.
Six minutes later, Awoniyi, a former under-15 striker, got his second goal of the evening when he rose through the defence of the Diamond Zebras to head home a pinpoint pullout from Musa Yahaya for the Eaglets’ last goal of the match.
Commenting on the standard of the game, Botswana coach, Kagiso Kobedi said both teams gave a good account of themselves despite the score line, adding that the second game of the two-match series on Monday would be very interesting.
Also in attendance at the Saturday’s game were high profile personalities including Cross River State’s Deputy Governor, Barrister Efiok Essien Cobham, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, members of the Cross River State Executive council as well as the Mallam Isa Yuguda, Governor of Bauchi State, who breezed into the stadium towards the end of the match.