Musa Yahaya and Taiwo Awoniyi, who played prominent roles when Nigeria won the FIFA U-17 World Cup last year, were in their clinical best yesterday in Dar-es-Salaam, where their goals accounted for Flying Eagles’ 2-0 defeat of their hosts, Tanzania, in the first leg of their 2015 African Youth Champions (AYC) qualifiers.
The Flying Eagles scored in the 49th minute through Yahaya and killed off the contest in the 82nd minute courtesy of Awoniyi.
“This win away from home is very, very good for us going into the return leg match in Nigeria,” Flying Eagles coach Manu Garba, told reporters after the match watched by a fair crowd at the 60,000-capacity National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
“Tanzania also showed they are a very good side, but they will have to work on their finishing.
“Overall, it was the better team that won even though I was not completely satisfied with the final 15 minutes of the game as we sat back in our defence.”
However, Ngorongoro of Tanzania coach, John Simkoko, insisted they have not given up hope and said they will battle in the return match in Nigeria in a fortnight.
“Nigeria were the better team and deserved to win,” he admitted. “But the battle is not over yet as we will come prepared to Nigeria.”
It was a goalless first half, but Nigeria enjoyed more of the ball possession and created more chances with their biggest opening coming after 24 minutes, when Musa Yahaya blasted wide from inside the six-yard.
Newly drafted striker Saad Kipanga from Mbeya City also had a glorious chance to put his team ahead after just five minutes, but his header from inside the box missed its target.
The home team suffered a major blow when first-choice goalkeeper and skipper Aishi Manula could not continue after a thigh injury in the first period.
He was therefore replaced by Peter Manyika for the resumption of the second half.
Four minutes after the break, Tanzania’s worst fears came to be as Musa Yahaya slotted past the goalkeeper from the near post after a low cross by skipper Musa Muhammed.
Kelechi Iheanacho, who replaced Alhassan Ibrahim ‘Mu-azam’ for the second half, was denied a goal in the 54th minute by a piece of brilliant goalkeeping by Manyika.
Flying Eagles goalkeeper, Joshua Enaholo, ensured he kept a clean sheet when he made a big save in 67th minute and he will again pull off another save late on as Tanzania attacked.
But Awoniyi killed off the tie eight minutes from time, when he held off his marker and stand-in captain Pato Ngonyani, before he slotted past the onrushing goalkeeper.
The home team created several openings late on to at least reduce the tally, but Abdallah Kheri and Juma Liuzio both failed to find target from inside the 18-yard box.