[b]Scores : Nig: 0 - Ivory - 1[/b]
The Elephants of Ivory Coast on Sunday defeated the Super Eagles 1-0 in an international friendly match at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.
An 83rd minute goal from substitute Salomon Kalou won the pulsating encounter for the Africa Cup of Nations-bound Elephants. The Nigerian side was basically Eagles ‘B’ players from the local league.
The match was the first of the two international friendlies billed to take place in Dubai as the Nigeria Football Federation seek to keep the Eagles busy following the country’s failure to make the trip to Equatorial Guinea for the 2015 AFCON. The Eagles will later take on Sudan at the same stadium on the 17th.
Assistant coach, Daniel Amokachi, who is in charge of the team, started with regular faces of the home-based team with goalkeeper Chigozie Agbim as captain while Azubuike Egwuekwe, Solomom Kwambe started in the defence.
Kano Pillars midfielder, Rabiu Ali, Sokari Kingsley and Mohammed Gambo were the other regulars in the starting line-up.
Highest goal-scorer of the Glo Premier League in the closed season, Mfon Udoh, also started in front alongside Gambo. Other new players in the starting line-up were Dimgba Stanley, Akas Chima, Reuben Ogbonna and Nathaniel Joseph.
The Ivorians started with a seemingly weakened side as they rested some of their major players with second-choice keeper, Gbohouo, starting the match.
Manchester City midfielder, Yaya Toure captained the team. He started with his elder brother Kolo in the defence, Serge Aurier was in the midfield while Gervinho and Cheick Tiote, in the attack, completed the regulars.
The Elephants had the first chance of the game in the second minute as Gervinho was played onside but he failed to beat Agbim.
Nigeria grew into the game as time wore on and in the 10th minute, Gambo side-footed an effort into the arms of the goalkeeper after an exchange of passes with Ali.
Four-time Africa Footballer of the Year, Toure, was well marked in the midfield as Nathaniel did not give him much breathing space. The Eagles raked up chance after chance but could not find the cutting edge to put the ball beyond the Ivorian goalkeeper to end the first half goalless.
The second half saw changes from the two sides as they both searched for goals. The Ivorians threw on Kalou and Lacine Traore in place of Toure and Kanon.
Amokachi also brought Ukoh Steven, who recently switched allegiance to Nigeria from Switzertland, for injured Sokari while Gbolahan Salami replaced Chima.
Salami was a culprit as he wasted some chances for the Nigerians with wayward shots as the Nigerians continued to dominate play in the midfield.
The Elephants, however, after 83 minutes, made one of their few efforts count after Ali failed to effectively clear a ball from the midfield into the path of Tiote who rounded up a defender before threading a pass to Kalou to stroke home.