……Flying Eagles outscored their Zambian counterparts in an U20 AFCON warm-up game; thanks to inspired substitution in the second half by coach Ladan Bosso.
Nigeria’s under-20 national football team, Flying Eagles, on Friday in Abuja overpowered their Zambian counterparts, the Junior Chipolopolo, 4-2 at the end of a thrilling international friendly.
The match at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium’s mainbowl was a tune-up game for both teams before the Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations.
The 2023 Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations is scheduled to take place in Egypt from February 19 to March 11.
The Flying Eagles started the friendly on the front foot as they looked to dominate the game from the onset.
They had their first shot on target as early as in the fifth minute, after Flying Eagles’ prolific midfielder Daniel Daga took a long shot from outside the penalty box.
It was a shot goalkeeper Jeban Tembo found difficult to handle as he parried it to on-rushing Ayuba Abubakar who failed to convert from close range.
The Flying Eagles had another lovely chance at goal in the 11th minute.
But man-of-the-match award winner Haliru Sarki saw his 30-yard free-kick hit the upright before goalkeeper Tembo deflected the ball out for a corner-kick.
The Junior Chipolopolo had a chance of their own in the 17th minute but Moses Mulenga saw his powerful strike from outside the box fenced away by goalkeeper Nathaniel Nwosu.
The Flying Eagles had two quick chances at goal six minutes later, but Ibrahim Muhammad squandered both opportunities with erratic and indecisive shots respectively.
Sarki had another lovely opportunity to open scoring for the hosts in the 33rd minute, after a clever dribble saw him take out two Zambian defenders.
But goalkeeper Tembo made himself big and punched Sarki’s shot away for a corner-kick.
The stalemate would however be broken barely five minutes later.
Sarki was gifted another opportunity and his lovely-placed shot from just outside the box crept into the bottom right corner of goalkeeper Tembo’s post in the 38th minute.
The second half saw a rejuvenated Zambian side begin to find their rhythm as they went in search of the equaliser.
The visitors responded well and scored in the 55th minute through a simple tap-in by Amon Chulu, after a defensive error in the Flying Eagles’ vital area.
Sarki came close to grabbing his brace and Nigeria’s second goal three minutes later, but his lovely free-kick again hit the upright to save goalkeeper Tembo’s blushes.
He then provided a lovely cross for substitute Olamilekan Adams in the 60th minute after a clever dribble from the right.
But Adams saw his powerful header deflected away by goalkeeper Tembo.
Nigeria’s second goal would however come barely three minutes later after Solomon Agbalaka’s pin-point cross from the left corner connected with Adams’ powerful header once again in the 63rd minute.
It was beginning to look like a ding-dong affair as the Zambians drew level once again from a lovely corner-kick taken by Henry Mbuti.
It found a lurking Lasmond Phiri who pounced with a powerful header to beat goalkeeper Nwosu following another defensive blunder.
The match was however far from over as Flying Eagles’ coach Ladan Bosso made several tactical changes, including substituting Emmanuel Uchebu for Sarki in the 71st minute.
The move paid off almost immediately as substitute Uchebu scored Nigeria’s third goal from a simple tap-in.
That was after a lovely pass from another substitute following a defensive error by the Zambians in the 77th minute.
Bosso made another late tactical substitution in the 83rd minute, bringing in Samuel Lawal for Daga.
The move again paid off barely five minutes later as Lawal added a fourth for Nigeria.
This was after his solo effort which saw him race with the ball from midfield to place a right-footed shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Tembo from just outside the box.
“We are happy with this victory because the boys played a good match, yet the team is still a work-in-progress,” said coach Bosso whose meaningful tactical changes in today’s match made the Flying Eagles’ victory possible.
The Junior Chipolopolo will fly to Senegal on Saturday for another friendly match, while the Flying Eagles will head to a final training camp in Morocco on Wednesday.