By Oladimeji Loko in Brazil:
Nigeria’s Olympic Eagles lost their first match at Rio 2016 on Wednesday night/Thursday morning to Colombia but still topped Group B with six points.
The Nigerians will also be sweating over the fitness of main man Oghenekaro Etebo, who was taken off injured late on.
Teofilo Gutierrez scored Colombia’s first goal in the fourth minute, while Dorlan Pabon added the second from the penalty spot in the 63rd minute to send the South Americans through to the quarter-finals as they finished second in Group B.
Olympic Eagles coach Samson Siasia made five changes to his line-up from the previous matches, resting the likes of goalkeeper Emmanuel Daniel, right-back Shehu Abdullahi, midfielder Usman Muhammed and the brilliant forward Imoh Ezekiel.
The changes meant the team lacked a bit of rhythm and Colombia took full advantage early on, Gutierrez latching on to a ball over the top to guide past Daniel Akpeyi after just four minutes. It was Gutierrez’s third goal of the tournament.
The goal unsettled the Nigerians and Colombia nearly added to their tally in the 19th minute.
William Tesillo found himself free in the Nigeria box but his header from about eight yards drew a stunning save from Akpeyi.
Pabon was through on goal again five minutes later as the Nigerian defence went to sleep but he fired wide with only Akpeyi to beat.
Nigeria’s best chance fell to Etebo in the 28th minute, but his shot from 15 yards out off a Sadiq Umar centre was narrowly wide.
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Etebo, who scored four goals against Japan in Nigeria’s opening day 5-4 win, went close again with a superb freekick, but Colombia keeper Cristian Bonilla made a fine save.
The Olympic Eagles’ desperate attempts to find an equaliser left their defence wide open and Harold Preciado was left one-on-one with Akpeyi, who brought him down in the box.
Pabon coolly drove the ball beyond Akpeyi from the penalty spot.
Siasia brought on Ezekiel, Stanley Amuzie and Muhammed but the changes had no effect as the Colombians claimed a vital win.
There was further bad news for the Olympic Eagles as key man Etebo was stretchered off with five minutes left after all three changes had been made.