The Nigeria U-20 team, the Flying Eagles, were held to a 1-1 draw by Cote d’Ivoire in their opening game of the WAFU B U20 tournament on Sunday.
Christopher Nwaeze had given the Nigeria U20s the lead in the 61st minute and it was looking like it would be enough to seal the victory.
However, the Ivorians punished the profligacy of the Flying Eagles with a late strike in stoppage time.
The Nigeria U-20 arrived in the Benin Republic on Saturday with the promise of doing the nation proud and that was evident in their display right from the blast of the whistle.
However, while Coach Ladan Bosso’s boys dominated play and created chance after chance, they failed to make the most of the myriad of opportunities they created.
Peter Olawale and Chris Nwaeze came closest to giving Nigeria the lead in the first but both players narrowly missed the target.
With the first-half ending in a barren draw, there was all to play for in the second 45 minutes and the Flying Eagles took the game to the Ivorians yet again.
In the end, the perseverance of the Flying Eagles paid off as they shot into the lead when Wisdom Ubani expertly delivered a cross for Nwaeze to head in just after the hour mark.
Ubani, who was the provider of the opening goal, could have doubled the Flying Eagles’ advantage moments after but he fluffed the gilt-edged chance that came his way.
There were anxious moments for Nigeria in the final 20 minutes as the team’s goalscorer Nwaeze was later red-carded for a second bookable offence thus leaving the Flying Eagles with a man down.
With the numerical disadvantage, the Flying Eagles tried hard to hold to their slim lead but at the dearth, the Ivorians struck to deny them a winning start in the pulsating encounter at the Stade de Gaules in Porto Novo.
Having started on this shaky note, the Flying Eagles will hope they will get it right when they face perennial rivals Ghana in their other Group B tie on Wednesday.