Nigeria lose to Mali in African Nations Championship
Posted: 12 January 2014 Time: 08:21
Nigeria were unimpressive in their opening game of the African Nations Championship (Chan) as they lost 2-1 to Mali at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.
The Malians were obviously the better of the two teams, as they set out to dominate the game from the start.
Nigeria received a scare in the 8th minute when Chigozie Agbim punched a corner-kick delivered by Abdoulaye Sissoko into the path of a Malian player, but Azubuike Egwuekwe made a timely goalline clearance to prevent the Malians from taking the lead.
With Nigeria struggling to string good passes together, Egwuekwe took the initiative by testing the Malian goalie with a long shot that took a deflection off an opponent, but his effort was easily picked up by Soumbeila Diakite.
Mali eventually took the lead through Sissoko as his shot deflected off Egwuekwe to find its way past Agbim and into the Nigerian net, after Nigeria lost possession if the ball in their own half in the 18th minute.
The goal appeared to spur the Malians into attacking the Nigerian goal as Lassana Diarra and Sidibe came close to extending their lead shortly after.
Solomon Kwambe however came close to equalizing for Nigeria with a shot from outside the box on the half-hour mark, but his effort took a deflection and went wide off the upright.
Nigeria won a free-kick three minutes later when Ugonna Uzochukwu was brought down by Cheikh Doumbia, but Kwambe's shot from the resulting free-kick was saved by Diakite, as the Malians carried their slim lead into the break.
Two minutes into the resumption of the second half, Agbim once again fumbled yet another corner-kick into the path of a Malian player, Nigeria were spared the horror as Diarra's follow-up shot was quickly cleared off the line.
Mali doubled their lead in the 50th minute through Adama Traore a snuck behind the Nigeria defence to last home a brilliant chip from Sidibe.
Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi quickly made an attacking change to the team as Ikenna Hillary made way for Gbolahan Salami who almost immediately pulled a goal back for Nigeria, after heading in a freekick from Rabiu Ali in the 54th minute.
Diarra missed a chance to restore Mali's lead on the hour-mark as he shot deflected Sidebe's shot wide off the post, after the latter had effortlessly weaved his way through the Nigerian defence.
Both teams continued to battle as Nigeria searched for an equalizer, while Mali sought to seal extend their lead to seal the win. But neither team was able to add to their tally at the end if the game.
Mali (1) 2 (Sissoko 18’, A Traore 50’)
Nigeria (0) 1 (Salami 54’)
Mali: Konate, Sidibe (Lassine Diarra 90+1’), Keita, M Traore, Sissoko, Doumbia, Lassana Diarra, A Traore, I Samake, So Diakite, Y Samake
Nigeria: Agbim, Solomon, Benjamin, Uzochukwu, Odunlami, Egwuekwe, Ejike, Ali, Ibrahim (Salami 52’), Hillary (Shehu 54’), Ede