The Golden Eaglets Saturday at the Stade General Seyni Kountché in Niamey opened their Under-17 2013 African Youth Championship’s account with a convincing 4-1 win over the Junior Menas of Niger.
The hosts still revelling in the joy of winning the Airtel Rising Star Championship in Nairobi last month, where they drew 1-1 with a Nigerian selected side, did not bargain for what they got from the boys under the guidance of coach Manu Garba (MFR) as Golden Eaglets dominated them throughout the match.
Nigeria paraded an identical team that beat Junior Wasps of Rwanda 5-0 in an International friendly match last weekend in Calabar and the chemistry in the team was there for all to see right from the blast of the whistle of Malian referee Mahamadou Keita.
Bean-pole attacking midfielder, Alhassan Ibrahim was an instant threat to the Nigeriens. As early as the 3rd minute, he evaded his shadows and his shot was spilled by Awale Mohammed in goal for the Junior Menas for lurking Isaac Success to safely guide the ball into the net - the goal was eventually credited to Ibrahim.
Ibrahim was back in the hunt in the 10 minutes later and thanks to the guiles of all-action striker, Success, who cleverly dropped the ball on his path, to shoot the Eaglets into a 2-0 lead.
The Golden Eaglets further riled more pressure on the hosts and could have scored more goals before the end of the first half but for tough luck especially on the part of gifted striker, Kelechi Iheanacho who missed some begging opportunities!
Iheanacho finally made good his boast about scoring against Niger when after collecting a ‘pocket pass’ from Ibrahim in the 50th minute, dribbled through the Junior Menas’ defence before driving an angular shot for the Eaglets third goal. He was pulled out immediately for Musa Yahaya who could have added his name on the scorer’s sheet but was denied by the opposing goalkeeper.
The Junior Menas stepped up their game thereafter and eventually got a cheeky penalty that was scored by Souleyman Issa in the 82nd minute.
The local fans thought there was a revival for the Junior Menas but it was the Golden Eaglets that finally had the last word when second half substitute and hat trick hero against Junior Wasps of Rwanda last weekend in Calabar, Chidera Eze, latched onto a through pass from Isaac, beat the offside trap and dribbled on-rushing Mohammed for the Eaglets’ fourth in the 85th minute and the final goal of the match to the delight of the Nigerians at the stadium.
Coach Manu Garba said that the result was a good one but the team is focussed on the task of qualifying Nigeria for the African Under-17 Youth Championship for the first time since 2007.
“We are grateful to God for this victory because this is the first time in a long while that a Nigerian team would win here in Niamey and we are grateful that we were able to achieve this but we don’t have an ideal team yet,” an elated Garba said.
“We want a flawless team and we are going back home to prepare for the second leg as if it is a cup final for us.