The Nigerian U23 national team failed to secure a home advantage on Wednesday after playing out a goalless draw with their Guinean counterpart at the MKO Stadium in Abuja in the first leg of the CAF U23 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying playoff.
After being hit all week with controversies regarding the ages of players invited and having to call up little-known foreign-based youngsters hurriedly, head coach Salisu Yusuf could only watch helplessly as his boys laboured in vain against the Baby Elephants.
The Nigerian team lacked ideas in attack and had to wait until the 30th minute before getting their first shot on target. Ogunniyi Omo-Jesu's freekick crashed against the bar, and that was the closest Nigeria came to scoring in the first half.
Coach Salisu made a double substitution before halftime, but it didn't change much of the proceedings as the Guinean goalkeeper was barely troubled by Nigeria's tame attack.
The second half was even worse for Nigeria, as they went on a nap, allowing Guinea to take the initiative. The visitors hit the crossbar early, and Nigeria's goalkeeper Nurudeen Badmus made some vital saves to keep his team in the game.
Nigeria missed a late chance through Ifeanyi Ogba, but things went from bad to worse as the Egyptian referee showed defender Christopher Nwaeze a red card in the 88th minute. Despite a nervy ending, Nigeria held on for the draw.
Guinea will host Nigeria in the second leg in six day and the Eagles wil need to avoid defeat to stand a chance of qualifying for the 2023 AFCON.