A Salim Fago flying header and a Jude Sunday’s added time strike condemned Italy to a 2-0 defeat at the Mendoza stadium on Wednesday as the flying eagles avenged their 2-0 defeat to the Europeans at the 1987 edition of the competition in Chile, and seal a last 16 spot.
Coach Ladan Bosso made one change to the side that beat Dominican Republic 2-1 in their opening Group D game on Sunday, as he started Victor Eletu in place of Tochukwu Nnadi.
The Gli Azzurrini took control of the game from the blast of the whistle and a dangerous move from Tommaso Baldanzi was thwarted by the Nigerian backline early on.
Despite the Italians’ dominance, the Nigerians gradually grew into the game, with the best chance of the game falling to Daniel Daga in the 10th minute, but he narrowly missed target.
There was, however, a nervy moment for the Flying Eagles as Matteo Prati’s long-range shot rocked the crossbar in the 21st minute.
Seven minutes later, the Flying Eagles responded with an attempt of their own. Sunday’s shot flew past the face of the post beating goalkeeper Sebastiano Desplanches, but striker Salim Fago couldn’t provide the touch needed to convert.
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The striker, however, drew a fine save from Desplanches in the 30th minute as the 20-year-old brilliantly pushed a goal-bound shot to a corner to keep the score level.
With six minutes to the end of the first period, the Italians’ appealed for a penalty after Solomon Agbalaka was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box, but after referee Piero Gomez consulted with VAR, a free-kick was awarded in favor of Bosso’s boys.
Italy almost broke the deadlock with two minutes left from the additional four minutes but goalkeeper Kingsley Aniagboso was up to the task as he superbly saved from Simone Pafundi to keep the game level after the first half.
Nigeria started the second half with more purpose and intent and was almost rewarded for their effort in the 54th minute after the onrushing Desplanches was beaten by Sunday, but the striker’s shot was headed out by Daniele Ghilardi.
The Africans, however, got the breakthrough on the hour mark after Sunday’s delightful weighted pass, after evading his marker inside the box, was headed in by Fago.
Bosso made a quick change as he sent on Haliru Sarki for goal scorer Fago and Joshua John for Victor Eletu.
Three minutes into the additional eight minutes, Sunday, who provided the first goal, turned goal scorer to put the game to rest.
Nigeria move top of group d with six points and will now face Brazil in their last group game on Saturday.