Holders Nigeria stunned by Ivory Coast in U-23 AFCON opener

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Côte d’Ivoire defender Silas Gnaka celebrates after scoring his team’s goal against Nigeria during their Group B game of the 2019 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations at the Al Salam Stadium on Saturday, November 9 2019. COURTESY: CAF

Ivory Coast stunned defending champions Nigeria 1-0 at the Al Salam Stadium on Saturday in their Group B match of the Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations.

Silas Gnaka’s penalty in the 71st minute was the only goal of the game.

Nigerian defender Olisa Ndah was sent off in the 70th minute for a second bookable offence.

“It was a difficult match for both teams. I said before all the teams here want to win this tournament. First games are usually tough. We lost today but we still have a lot to play for. Football is about small details and that’s what made difference today,” Nigeria coach Imama Amapakabo said after the match.

The second game in the group on Saturday saw South Africa and Zambia play out to a 0-0 draw at the same venue.

A tense encounter saw both sides go close in the first half with both goalkeepers called into action at either end. Zambia went particularly close in the 32nd minute but a South African defender cleared the ball off the line just as the deadlock seemed destined to be broken.

Neither side could find a breakthrough after the break and had to settle for a point apiece.

“It was an entertaining match but difficult for both sides. We missed some of our abroad based players but we cannot complain of that. Hopefully we will be better for the next games,” Zambia coach Beston Chambeshi said.

Ivory Coast leads the group with three points followed by South Africa and Zambia on one point each. Nigeria is bottom with zero points.

The top two teams of each group will advance to the semi-finals.

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