Nigeria revived their chances of securing a place in the semi-final of the 2019 Africa U23 Cup of Nations with a 3-1 victory against Zambia on Tuesday evening.
Patson Daka’s effort was cancelled out by Orji Okwonkwo before second-half efforts from Kelechi Nwakali and Taiwo Awoniyi ensured the Olympic Eagles claimed maximum points at Al-Salam Stadium.
Imama Amapakabo made a few changes to the team that lost to Ivory Coast on Saturday. Istanbul Basaksehir midfielder Azubuike Okechukwu and Mainz 05 striker Awoniyi, who joined the squad on Sunday were handed starting roles.
Red Bull Salzburg striker Daka, who has been in electrifying form for his Austrian club this season, led the Chipolopolo’s attack.
Beston Chambeshi’s men drew first blood when Daka opened the scoring 12 minutes into the encounter after he was set up by Emmanuel Banda.
The Olympic Eagles responded almost immediately when Ibrahim Sunusi’s pass found Orji Okonkwo, who in turn fired past goalkeeper Mangani Banda in the 16th minute.
Nigeria goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar was called to action when he brilliantly saved a goal-bound effort in the 44th minute to ensure the scoreline remained 1-1 at the end of the first half.
After the restart, Nigeria immediately hit the ground running with Nwakali coming close to give the Eagles the lead but his free-kick missed the target by a whisker.
Coach Amapakabo replaced injured Okwonkwo with Sunday Fakeye in the 62nd minute as the Olympic Eagles continued to probe the Zambians for a winning-goal.
Nigeria’s unrelenting efforts were rewarded in the 65th minute when SD Huesca midfielder Nwakali put the West Africans in front and moments before the end of the game Awoniyi sealed the victory.
The win ensured the defending champions climbed to second spot in the group standings with three points from two games, but they remain behind South Africa.