Nigeria’s flying eagles lost 1-0 to Senegal in the opening game of the Under-20 AFCON Championship on Sunday in Cairo.
Soulaymane Faye, the striker, broke the deadlock five minutes before halftime at the Cairo International Stadium.
The Young Lions of Teranga started strong in midfield, with Lamine Camara and team captain Samba Diallo pulling the strings for the WAFU-A champions.
Senegal made their intentions known from the opening minutes with striker Pape Diallo causing mayhem in the Nigerian penalty box.
Pape Diallo saw his header saved by Nigerian goalkeeper Nwosu on the half-hour mark, following Camara’s inviting delivery.
Faye’s close-range finish resulted from the lanky forward being the quickest to respond to Pape Diop’s low effort, which Nwosu turned into his path.
The Flying Eagles pushed harder for the equalizer in the second half, but Senegal defended well to keep a clean sheet, and Samba Diallo even came close to doubling their lead.
That was when his diving header missed the bottom corner of the Nigerian goal.
Changes by Nigeria in the second half, in the substitution of Halliru Sarki for Emmanuel Uchegbu and the introduction of Jude Sunday for Ibrahim Mohammad, could still not help matters.
To make matters worse, the Flying Eagles were reduced to 10 men following substitute Ahmed Abdullahi’s sending-off in the match’s closing stages.
The forward had replaced Olamilekan Adams, but a high-foot challenge on a Senegalese could only earn him a 90th-minute sending-off.
Senegal though missed two late chances earlier, through second-half substitute Mame Ngom.
He failed to hit the target twice when he beat the goalkeeper to the ball only to fire over the goal.
The Flying Eagles will now take on hosts Egypt on Wednesday at the same venue in their second group phase game.
The hosts had earlier in the day in the competition’s opening match drawn goalless with Mozambique.