AFCON U-23: Defending champion Nigeria suffer 0-1 opening defeat to Cote d’Ivoire
Holders Nigeria succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against Cote d’Ivoire as Group B action kicked off at Al Salam Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Silas Gnaka scored from the spot after 68 minutes what proved to be the game’s lone goal shortly after Nigeria was reduced to 10 men from the previous foul on Ilisa Ndah who received his marching orders.
The opening half witnessed almost no clear chances for both sides who entered the game with cautious approach as it ended in a barren stalemate, CAF reports on its website.
Nigeria returned with more intention and missed a chance to break the deadlock after 64 minutes when Taiwo Iwonyi header rebounded from the crossbar.
But it was Cote d’Ivoire who took the lead. Olisa Ndah fouled Youssouf Dao inside the vital area to receive his marching orders for a second bookable offense.
The referee awarded the Ivoirians a penalty and from the spot Silas Gnaka’s shot found the hands of Nigeria’s goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar’s hand but the referee judged it to pass the goal line to score Les Elephants opener.
Nigeria tried hard to fine the equalizer but time passed quickly as the holders suffered their first defeat.
Total Man of the Match: Koffi Edgard Dakoi (Cote d’Ivoire)
What they said
Koffi Edgard Dakoi (Total Man of the Match)
I’m very happy that we won today. It was a tough game against the holders but we proved our strength. We will continue to work hard.
Imama Amapakabo (Coach, Nigeria)
It was a difficult match for both teams. I said before all the teams here want to win this tournament. First games are usually tough. We lost today but we still have a lot to play for. Football is about small details and that’s what made difference today.
Soualiho Haidara (Coach, Cote d’Ivoire)
It was very important for us to win today. Nigeria is a strong and respectable team. I thank my players for their efforts and we will continue to fight. I think our team deserves victory today. Punch