Nigeria’s U-20 squad reached the final round of qualifying for next year’s CAF U-20 Cup of Nations after edging Burundi’s Young Swallows 2-1 in Calabar on Saturday, June 11.
Before kick-off, a minute-silence was observed in honour of Nigeria and African coaching legends Stephen Keshi and Shuaibu Amodu, who died on Wednesday and Saturday respectively. The Nigerian players also wore black armbands.
Forward Victor Osimhen and captain Kelechi Nwakali scored second half goals to seal the Flying Eagles’ passage, never thought to be in doubt after they won the first leg 1-0 in Bujumbura three weeks ago.
It was, however, a hard-fought encounter, as the Swallows gave a better account of their abilities on the turf of the UJ Esuene Stadium than they did on home ground in Bujumbura.
Nigeria created several chances, mostly from Kingsley Michael’s mazy runs, and the lanky midfielder himself could have opened scores after eight minutes when he had the Burundian defence in knots.
Chinedu Madueke had the ball in the net from a brilliant Samuel Chukwueze run into the box in the 32nd minute, but was ruled off –side. Just before recess, Nwakali’s weighted shot missed narrowly.
Nwakali came close again nine minutes into the second period, before Michael missed with a header on the hour mark. Orji Okonkwo also missed with a flash shot in the 64th minute, but Osimhen made no mistake from the penalty spot after Udochukwu Anumudu was brought down in the box on 72 minutes.
Eight minutes from time, Nwakali scored the goal of the day, placing the ball beyond Jonathan Nahimana from 22 yards after lively substitute Gavi Thompson was brought down.
The Swallows however pulled one back two minutes from time, Magloire Ndikumana finishing off a swift counter attack.
The Flying Eagles will play Sudan for a spot at the CAF U-20 Cup of Nations Zambia 2017. The first leg will take place in Khartoum in four weeks.