Despite parading a host of foreign-based stars, the Nigeria U-23 team were beaten 2-0 on Wednesday by their Libyan counterparts at the Stade de Ben Guerdane in Tunisia in the first leg of the African qualifiers.
The Nigeria U-23, nicknamed the Olympic Eagles, are walking a tight rope in their quest to qualify for the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations in which the country is the defending champion.
The Olympic Eagles playing one man short following a red card bagged by goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar late in the first half had no answers to the Libyans who scored a goal in each half of Wednesday’s encounter.
The North Africans despite technically playing away from home took the lead barely seven minutes into the game when striker Zakaria Alharaish scored to put his team in front.
The bad situation got worse for Nigeria as goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar was red-carded in the closing stages of the first half for handling outside the box.
The development forced Coach Imama Amapakabo to pull out Dennis Bonaventure who made way for the second-choice goalkeeper Orewale Oremade to mind the goalpost.
Oremade also had to pick the ball inside his net as the fast-paced Libyans doubled their lead in the 69th minute thus leaving the Olympic Eagles with a mountain to climb in the return fixture.
The Nigerian team will be battling the North Africans in the reverse tie at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba on Monday, March 25.
Nigeria won the last edition of the Africa U-23 Cup of Nations held, only for the second time, in Senegal four years ago following a 2-1 win over Algeria at the Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor in Dakar.