Senegal appears on track for a fifth clinching of African title in a space of less than 13 months as their U23 side made good use of home advantage to register victory in first leg match over Mali in the qualifiers for Morocco 2023.
While Nigeria laboured to an uninspiring 0-0 against Guinea in Abuja, Senegal defeated Mali 3-1 in a match played at the St. Abdoulage Wade de Diamniadio in Dakar on Wednesday night.
Egypt also did the same, with a deserved 2-0 win against Zambia in Cairo.
After a goalless first half, the home side returned in search of a goal to score through Ibrahim Adel Ali Mohamed Hassan after 73 minutes, and Abdel Rahman Atef made it 2-0 with two minutes to full time.
In Dakar, Lamine Camare gave Senegal the lead after 14 minutes, and Ibrahim Drame doubled the lead 13 minutes later.
After the interval, the Mali team came back determined and attacked in numbers before pulling a goal back through Diarra after 60 minutes.
But the hosts were awarded a penalty that Abdallah Simo made no mistake converting after 65 minutes.
In Abuja, Nigeria’s Olympic Eagles lacked ideas in attack and barely shot at the Guinea goal.
Nigeria’s goalkeeper Nurudeen Badmus made several saves to save his team from a home defeat.
It was Ifeanyi Ogba who also missed a late scoring opportunity for Nigeria.
The hosts were reduced by a player after defender Christopher Nwaeze was sent-off late in the game. “We need to get back to the drawing board and prepare well for the return leg,” said Nigeria’s head coach Salisu Yusuf after the match.
Visiting national U23 team of Sudan also held Niger to a goalless draw in a match played at the St. General Senyi Kountche Stadium in Niamey.
The return legs will be played next week with the winners over two legs qualifying for the U23 AFCON.
The top three nations at the U23 AFCON final tournament will also be guaranteed a place in the Summer Olympics in Paris, France.