Egypt, Mali on course
Shooting Stars’ Ajayi ‘Junior’ Oluwafemi struck twice in Port Harcourt yesterday as Nigeria’s Dream Team beat Congo 2-1.
However, an away goal has handed the Congolese a fighting chance in the race for the football event of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio with the second leg in Pointe-Noire in a fortnight.
After a scoreless first half completely dominated by home team Nigeria, Junior Ajayi finally opened scoring in the 48th minute after Congo goalkeeper Christoffer Mafoumbi failed to hold on to an acute-angled shot by Godwin Saviour.
Shooting Stars striker Ajayi completed his brace in the 54th minute, when he headed home a low cross from the left by Etor Daniel.
But just when Dream Team VI were cruising to a comfortable home win, Congo pulled a goal back through Moise Nkonkou in the 66th minute.
A penalty appeal by Nigeria in the 59th minute was overlooked by the Kenyan referee, but television replays later showed it should have been given as Etebo Oghenekaro’s shot was handled by a Congo defender inside the box.
Nigeria made three changes thereafter with Musa Yahaya, Taiwo Awoniyi and Umar Aminu coming in as they went in search of more goals. Awoniyi failed to connect a low drive across the Congo goal in the 75th minute.
Oghenekaro was then denied in stoppage time by the Congo goalkeeper.
In Egypt, a late goal blitz enabled Egypt to overwhelm Uganda 4-0 this weekend and mover closer to a place at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games football tournament.
The Baby Pharaohs led after eight minutes in Mediterranean city Alexandria and added three final-quarter goals to build a huge first-leg lead in the third-round qualifier.
Star Mahmoud ‘Kahraba’ Abdel Moneim – whose nickname means electricity in Arabic – bagged a brace and Mohamed Salim and Ramadan Sobhy were also on target.
Gabon were shock winners of a pre-London Olympics tournament in Morocco four years ago having eliminated Mali en route.
Zambia forced a 0-0 draw with Ivory Coast in Abidjan despite having to play much of the second half with 10 men.
Defender Boyd Mkandawire was sent off on 62 minutes after being yellow-carded a second time, but the Ivorians failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority.
Olympic qualifiers are restricted to footballers born on or after January 1, 1993, with three over-age stars permitted at the August 3-20 2016 finals in Brazil.