Ivory Coast scored a dramatic late goal to salvage a draw against arch-rivals Nigeria at the WAFU ‘B’ U-20 Championship at the Stade De Gaulles in Porto Novo on Sunday.
Two second-half goals ensured that continental giants ended their match 1-1 while keeping alive their hopes of advancing from the tricky three-team group at the sub-regional tournament.
Dje Bi Vroh was the hero for the Baby Elephants as his late strike helped his side to rally from a goal down to draw with their opponents in Group B of the tournament serving as qualifiers for the African championship.
This was after Nigerian defender Christopher Nwaeze had given the Flying Eagles the lead with a powerful header just after the hour mark to spark hopes of sealing victory in a difficult match.
The game was balanced from the start and Nigeria showed early hunger for goals with striker Peter Olawole and Nwaeze missing good scoring opportunities after they twice exposed the Ivorian defenders.
The Baby Elephants were happy to sit back and soak the pressure from the Nigerians but were very dangerous on attack with dangerous offensive midfielder Fofana Datro and striker Mel Yannick Agnero also fluffing some good chances.
But the Flying Eagles were not to be stopped after the break when Nwaeze rose highest to head in from Wisdom Ubani’s free kick with goalkeeper Souleymane Dao well beaten.
The goal sparked the Ivorians to life with sporadic attacks but Nigeria were not satisfied as they pressed on for more goals. The Baby Elephants took advantage of such daring attacks and when Vroh broke free on the left in stoppage time, he outpaced two Nigeria defenders before hitting the ball past goalkeeper Kolawale Oladipo.
Both sides need a victory in their next matches to be assured of progress from the three-team group that also involves tough rivals Ghana.
Nigeria will play Ghana in the next game in the group on Wednesday.
The competition continues on Tuesday when hosts Benin take on Togo while Niger face Burkina Faso in Group A.
The WAFU B U20 championship ends on 20 December with the two finalists qualifying for the CAF U20 African Nations Cup.