Nigeria achieved a seventh title, beating hosts Senegal 1-0 in the final on Sunday at a packed Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium in Dakar.
Midfielder Bernard Bulbwa’s first half strike was all the Flying Eagles needed to confirm their status as the most successful country in the history of the biennial championship. Nigeria’s other previous titles were 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 2005 and 2011.
The feat means Senegal will have to wait for their first major title at the continental level to match their status as one of the powerhouses of African football.
Seeking to avenge the 3-1 loss in the tournament opener, it was Senegal who got off well making their intent clear as early as the tenth minute. However, Nigeria goalkeeper Joshua Enaholo proved up to the task denying El Hadji Niang in a one-on-one situation.
The Flying Eagles will recover from the promising start of the hosts, cheered on by an ecstatic crowd which partially filled the 60,000 capacity Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium in the capital, Dakar.
One of the usual long searching passes of the Nigerians will lead to the opener on 19 minutes. Midfielder Bulbwa trapped the ball nicely before delivering a spectacular thunderbolt that caught Senegal goalie Ibrahim Sy and silence the deafening crowd at the stadium.
It was Bulbwa’s first goal at the tournament and it came at no other than time than the most important game.
After the goal, Nigeria will slow the pace of the game allowing ‘Les Lionceaux’ to dominante possession. Three minutes past the half-hour mark, the homers had a good chance to score after Sidy Sarr had squared to captain Roger Gomis, but the latter fired wide to the chagrin of the crowd.
Five minutes before the break, the Senegalese were unlucky as a corner by Moussa Kone was met by a header lanky defender Mouhameth Sane hit the post with the Nigeria defence caught ball watching.
Senegal resumed with the same tempo and few minutes into the game were denied by Nigeria goalie Enaholo who palmed away Niang’s goal-bound drive to a thunderous applause from the pockets of Nigeria fans at the stadium.
Whilst the Senegalese had the upperhand in terms of possession it was the Nigerians who looked dangerous on the play.
Midway through the half, the Senegalese kept the Nigerian defence boiling with Sarr and substitute Alassane Sow leading the raids upfront.
After failing to make their dominance count, goalkeeper Sy was to rescue of his side with a superb save from a power-laden effort by Ifeanyi Matthew three minutes from time. The Flying Eagles held on to achieve a record extending seventh title in the biennial tournament.
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