Nigeria began the race towards the defence of their African Under-23 title on Wednesday on a sour note as they suffer a 0-2 defeat to their Libyan counterparts in Tunisia.

The match played on the artificial turf of the Ben Guerdane Stadium in Bergandan, near Tunis was a first round first leg encounter in the qualification series. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Nigeria’s Olympic Eagles team were aiming to replicate their achievements of 2016.

The Nigerian team featuring the likes of Villareal forward Samuel Chukwueze, Taiwo Awoniyi, Kelechi Nwakali, Azubuike Okechukwu and Dennis Bonaventure had an early setback by conceding a goal after five minutes.

They however settled into the game gradually to control possession with a dominant midfield play, but found it hard to crack their opponents defence. But while the Eagles were trying to find an equaliser, goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar was sent off just before the half-time break.

Adamu was sent off after he handled the ball outside the penalty area.

Olawale Oremader later in the second half replaced Bonaventure as the Olympic Eagles began to battle with 10 players.

They would have gotten the much needed equaliser in the 53rd minute when Awoniyi was presented with a goalscoring opportunity, failing to finish off a cross from Chukwueze from the left.

The Nigerian side were made to rue their missed chances when the hosts doubled their lead in the 69th minute after a sweeping counter-attack move.

They now have their work cut out in the crucial return leg fixture at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba on Tuesday to keep their hopes of making the African tournament alive.

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The tournament billed for Egypt in November is to produce Africa’s flagbearers at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

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