U-23 Player Ratings Reflections: Nigeria vs Zambia (3:1) 

Taiwo Awoniyi's last minute bombastic breakaway goal was the final nail in the coffin for Zambia as they lost their one goal lead to crash 3:1 to Nigeria yesterday in the Under 23 Afcon taking place in Egypt.

Nigeria, who now sit second in the group with 3 points, will face group leaders South Africa on Friday in a winner-takes-it-all tie.

Afrofooty's Adeola Bankole reflects on the player ratings of yesterday's match:

The Starters

Goalkeeper


Adamu Abubakar: chose to come off his line which made it easier for Daka to chip him for Zambia's goal.

Other than that, Adamu made some camera friendly saves. He tends to decide to come off his lines too quickly. (7/10)

Defenders


Valentine Ozonwafor: a strong performance from the centre defender who stayed focused to extinguish the threats posed by the Zambian attackers.

That said, holding a high line at times led to some nervy moments which may have been exploited by more savvy (8/10)


Anthony Izuchukwu: did the basics well and timed his interceptions expertly for most parts.

There were times when he would have lost his man but he showed decent recovery rate. (7/10)


Seth Sincere: he delivered some tantalising crosses and supported the attack on occasions. his defensive duties were also dispensed with decent effort. (7/10)


Bitok Stephen: Assured display after starting on the wrong foot. he did was instructed with a performance that his coach would be pleased with. (7/10)


Midfielders


Azubuike Okechukwu: his best is surely yet to come as Azubuike did not impose himself on this game as even he would have wanted.

Highly experienced, this Turkey based midfielder still passed the ball with calmness and attempted to help transition defence to attack with purposeful movements.

He also had efforts on goal. (8/10)


Kelechi Nwakali: The Spainish based midfielder fired a warning shot at the Zambians with a first half freekick which caused problems, however, the young Zambians failed to take heed.

A second half explosive freekick expertly dispatched by Nwakali led to Nigeria's second goal.

Although, he goes missing for some spells in the match, Nwakali still showed his sterling qualities with neat touches and fine distribution. (8.5/10)


Ndifreke Udo: he showed vision, composure and poise in his curling long pass that picked out Awoniyi for Nigeria's last minute goal.

He himself could have been on the score sheet but some his misdirected efforts. (6.5/10)


Attackers


Ibrahim Sunusi: always willing to run in the channels. Sanusi was undoubtedly a nuisance to the Zambians in the way he put himself about with movements and pressings.

He was also full of tricks and his crosses were always well placed. (7/10)


Taiwo Awoniyi: a tame header in the first half could have given Nigeria a goal if applied properly.

The Liverpool-owned man was nonetheless a force to reckon with upfront with his presence, link up play, movements and determination to find the back of the net - a determination that payed off as he eventually got his goal with the last kick of the match. He latched on to a long range sublime pass to round the onrushing goalkeeper outside the 18 yard box before cooling slicing the ball to the back of the net. (8/10)


Orji Okonkwo: highly creative, Orji combined well with Awoniyi and his teammates on several occasions.

The Italy-based winger was indeed a delight to behold. Thrashed home his team's equaliser in the first half but unfortunately came off after picking an injury. (7.5/10)

The Substitutes


Sunday Faleye: he has bags of energy and proved that he was willing to burn these in this encounter with constant running and pressure.

A passionate display by the substitute. (6/10)


Adam Aliyu: he saw a goal-bound effort blocked off after coming on and looked every bit the part.

Another willing and passionate runner who tried to make things happen with purposeful play. (6/10)

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