There was to be no comeback this time for the Golden Eaglets as the coach Manu Garba-tutored boys fell to a narrow 2-1 loss to Australia on Friday night at the ongoing FIFA U17 World Cup.
Two goals from Noah Botic, the second from the spot kick, drowned a Peter Olawale strike and earned the Aussies their first win of the tournament and a chance to claim a spot in the next round of the competition.
A 2-1 defeat sends highflying Nigeria back down to earth but the five-time world champions retain their spot atop Group B, qualifying as the group leaders.
Knowing his boys had secured their spot in the knockout stages of the tournament, Manu Garba rang the changes for the game as expected, as he unsurprisingly handed Amoo a start.
The last time the two sides met, Nigeria thrashed the Australians 6-0 in the Round 16 clash enroute the 2015 triumph.
The Golden Eaglets started the brighter of the two sides but it was the Aussies who grabbed the lead against the run of play.
First, it was Amoo who tested the Australian keeper with a fine hit from distance before captain Tijani dribbled his way past two Joeys to create space for a shot but yet again the Australian goaltender came to the rescue.
Moments later however, the opponents got their noses in front after a wonderful pass from Caleb Watts put Tristan Hammond through on goal who then presented Noah Botic with a chance to apply a cool finish.
But the Joeys’ lead only lasted for a few minutes as on the stroke of 20 minute, Peter Olawale got Nigeria back on leveled terms after connecting with a decent ball from the lively Akinkunmi Amoo.
The two young teams traded chances late in the half with Nigeria just about edging it but scores stayed leveled at the break.
Ten minutes after the break and Australia were back in front from the spot.
A penalty was awarded against the Golden Eaglets after Usman Ibrahim fouled an opposition player inside the box and it was that youngster Noah Botic once again, who showed some ice cool nerves to place the ball into the bottom corner, claiming his fourth goal of the tournament.
The Nigeria attack from there descended on the Aussies’ defence in search of the late goals that had become a trademark of their play but it was not to be this time as the Australians held on to claim an important win that earned them qualification into the next round of the tournament.
The loss however could not rob Nigeria of the group’s top spot as Ecuador’s 3-2 victory over Hungary in the other group game played simultaneously was not enough to take them past the Golden Eaglets on the group table.
The Joeys’ fate however will be decided around midday on Sunday, 3 November when the final matches in Group D are concluded and four of the six third place teams will advance to the Round of 16.