A Guillermo De Peno own goal and Samson Lawal’s winner enabled the Flying Eagles come from behind to defeat debutants Dominican Republic 2-1 in their first Group D game at the U-20 World Cup at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza.
Nigeria, a two-time U-20 World Cup finalist, is determined to make history and win their first title, but Ladan Bosso’s team struggled to beat the Caribbeans in their opening game.
Despite the Flying Eagles’ dominance, it was the U-20 World Cup debutants who drew first blood in Argentina, with Edison Azcona scoring from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute, giving the CONCACAF representatives their first goal at the tournament.
After sending goalkeeper Chijioke Aniagboso in the opposite direction, the 19-year-old slotted into the left corner.
Bosso’s boys rallied strongly to the early setback and were back on equal terms eight minutes later.
Solomon Abalaka’s long throw forced De Peno, who was under pressure, to head into his own net.
The Flying Eagles continued to create opportunities but were unable to capitalize, as the first half finished 1-1.
They continued to control possession in the second half, but lacked the quality to threaten their opponents.
The Nigerians, on the other hand, took the lead in the 71st minute, when Lawal pounced on a sloppy Israel Boatwright back-pass to slot past the Caribbeans’ Xavier Valdez.
Nigeria has now scored in five consecutive U-20 World Cup opening-day games since a 1-0 loss to Venezuela in Egypt in 2009.
The Dominican Republic was unable to mount their own comeback, allowing Nigeria to cruise to victory and gain three vital points, putting them atop Group D.
On Wednesday, Nigeria and the Dominican Republic will face Italy and Brazil, respectively.
In the other match played on Sunday, Gustavo Puerta’s last-gasp goal gave Colombia a 2-1 comeback triumph over Israel in Group C.
Dor Turgeman sent Luis Marquinez the wrong way from the penalty spot to give Israel the lead early in the second. Oscar Cortes performed the same thing on the other end to level the score.
A draw appeared to be on the cards when Puerta fooled his marker by arrowing the ball into the bottom corner.