22nd June, 2022
By Victor Okoye
Five-time world champions Golden Eaglets on Tuesday in Cape Coast, Ghana defeated their Ivorian counterparts 3-1 in the semi-finals of the WAFU B Under-17 Championship.
The victory enabled the Nigerian side to qualify for the 2023 Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) slated for Algeria.
The Eaglets staged a remarkable comeback from a goal down to defeat Ivory Coast at the Cape Coast Stadium.
Two goals by deadball expert Emmanuel Michael and a glancing header by Abubakar Abdullahi condemned Cote d’Ivoire to a 1-3 loss in the competition’s first semi-final match.
Yet, the Eaglets uncharacteristically conceded first when Yan Diomande scored from the penalty kick spot in the very first minute after a foul in the Nigerian box.
The Nigerian boys launched onslaughts after onslaughts and were rewarded on the half-hour mark.
This was when Michael, who scored a spectacular goal from a 22-yard free-kick in the opening match against hosts Ghana, found the range off another free-kick from the right wing.
Thirteen minutes later, Nigeria were ahead for the first time in the encounter.
This was after Michael, again from a free-kick at the edge of the box, blindsided goalkeeper Mohamed Cisse with an intelligent attempt that swept past the static wall.
Ivory Coast came into the second half determined to browbeat the Eaglets with their size and stoutness.
But they were pegged further back on the hour mark when Abdullahi found the net with a glancing header.
Four minutes later, the Baby Elephants were down to ten men after Makhete N’diaye was shown the red card for an unsporting behavior.
Another free-kick by Michael in the 77th minute missed target narrowly, and Precious Williams came very close with four minutes left after a brilliant team move set him up with a clear chance.
The Eaglets will take on the winners of the second semi-final match between hosts Ghana and Burkina Faso in Friday’s final match.
Victory over Ivory Coast meant Nigeria will be one of the eight participating teams at next year’s Under-17 AFCON in Algeria.
Defender and deadball prodigy Michael was presented with the Man-of-the-Match award after the game for the third consecutive match