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Cup of Nations: Dream Team 3-2 Mali; plus all the updates

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Photo: Football Fans Naija

Nigeria’s Dream Team shot to the top of Group B of the Africa U-23 Cup of Nations after edging Mali 3-2 in M’Bour on Sunday.

A tough and keenly -contested game was split into two halves as 1996 Olympic champions Nigeria raced to a 3-0 lead at half –time but could still have shared the points at the end.

Siasia’s Dream Team soaked up early pressure as Mali rocked Emmanuel Daniel’s crossbar as early as the first minute, and the West African rivals made some good runs into the Nigerian area. However, on 16 minutes, Tunisia –based forward Junior Ajayi sweetly back –heeled into the Malian net after a good run down the left by Usman Mohammed.

Mohammed turned goalscorer 18 minutes later, sweeping into the net with his right foot after Sincere Seth ran down the right flank and cut back into the box, with Ajayi missing the first touch.

Ajayi completed his brace on the dot of half –time, latching on brilliantly to the ball as goalkeeper Djigui Diarra parried a hot shot from Etebo Oghenekaro.

The Malians came into the second half much stronger and determined, while the Dream Team appeared relaxed. It took only nine minutes for the Malians to reduce the deficit, as Ndifreke Effiong tripped a Malian forward in the box. Adama Niane converted beautifully.

Mali got a second as the Dream Team allowed them all the play. Souleymane Sissoko scored from a quick break from the left and the Malians now had belief they could turn it around.

With 15 minutes to go, Mali came so close, but Daniel saved from Adama Traore before the rebound narrowly missed target. A rasping shot from a free –kick in added time sailed over, and handed the Dream Team the three points.

Egypt and Algeria had earlier played a 1-1 draw in the first match of Group B, meaning the Dream Team now heads that pool. Nigeria next play Egypt on Wednesday while Algeria will take on Mali.

In Saturday’s Group A matches, host Senegal shot down South Africa 3-1, while Zambia lost 1-2 to Tunisia. On Tuesday, Senegal will take on Tunisia in a top-of-the-table battle, while South Africa battles Zambia.

Osimhen earned His Place – Siasia

In an earlier press conference, the head coach of the U-23 national team, Dream Team, Samson Siasia justified his selection of Chile U-17 highest goal scorer Victor Osimhen in the Dream Team, saying his incusion is not on sentiment but on merit.

Coach Siasia made this disclosure at the official press conference organized by CAF in Mbour, while addressing the sporting press.

According to Coach Siasia “the young man (Victor) did not replace anybody or made this team on emotions, he earned his place as he showed maturity in training, besides, don’t forget he scored ten goals in Chile, and you don’t score such amount of goals in such a competition in error, I brought him here to show the world that what he did in Chile is no fluke”

On the chances of the Dream Team picking one of the tickets to the Rio Olympics, Coach Siasia had this to say “we were the last team to arrive Senegal and by extension we will be the last team to leave Senegal, for me my target is to play 5 matches here in Senegal, and with the team I have on ground here in Senegal, that target of mine is achievable”

The U-23 gaffer disclosed that because we didn’t qualify for the last Olympic Games in London, he doesn’t have any excuse not to qualify for Rio, but for him his major target is to win an Olympic gold medal as he has already won a silver medal in the Olympics in the past.

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