Senegal struck twice in the first half and hung on for a 2-1 win over Nigeria during a group A encounter on Tuesday n night in Tangiers. The match started off at a sluggish pace as the teams were slow out of the blocks and played at an almost pedestrian pace.
The monotony broken in 34th minute by a Kara Mbodji’s looping header from a delivery on the left flank. There was much between the two sides at that stage although the lanky Khaliloulah Seck had started controlling the midfield threading threatening balls to the flanks. The goal allowed the Senegalese to settle into a rhythm and they were lively and rattled the Nigerians.
Long balls played into the Senegalese box intended for the Nigerian forwards were cut off by the taller defenders.
In the 42nd minute Abdoulaye Sane went on a mazy run and his shot on target was blocked but fortunately bounced back to him to side foot past Muniru Ajiboye at his near post for Senegal’s second goal.
A shell-shocked Nigeria upped their game and went close with header from Gbolahan Salami.
There had been not much in the way of quality before the goals but second half brought about better football. Stephane Badji let go a powerful volley but Ajiboye acrobatically tipped it away for a corner.
A few minutes after that Nigeria strung some neat passes venturing into Senegal penalty box but the final shot sailed wide. In the 49th minute a through ball played towards Senegalese goal brought about a chase and Daniel Uchechi managed to push the ball underneath goalkeeper Ousmane Mane as he rushed out.
It was the Nigerians in ascendancy and they peppered the opposition’s goal looking for the equalizer with Kayode Orlarenwaju and substitute Marshal Odah probing from the wings. One such move had saw Salami break through into the box but took the wrong option when he went for goal instead of setting up his fellow waiting strikers.
At the other end Badji ‘s pace and power was troubling Ewoma Ojobo and in the 68th minute he almost increased his team’s lead with a hard shot that was tipped on to the cross bar by Ajiboye and it bounced back into play. The lively pattern of the second half continued with both sides really going for it, keeping the two goal-minders busy.
As the legs got tired both sides missed glaring opportunities with substitute Romeric Lopy side footing straight into Ajiboye’s hands from a few meters out and at the other end a miss-controlled effort from Salami allowed the ball past the upright as he tried to divert it into goal.
The brave effort by the two teams to get more goals ran out of time and at the final whistle it was Senegal celebrating after picking up their first three points with a game against Morocco’ still to come and Nigeria now plays Algeria in their final group game on Friday 2nd December in Marrakech.