Nazifi Yahaya (right) © Future Champions Gauteng
Wikki Tourists youngster Dini Lawal saved the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) All-Stars' blushes against their Safa Tshwane counterparts in a 1-1 draw in the opening fixture at the Future Champions Gauteng International Tournament on Monday.
It was a dominant performance from the Nigerian selected Under-17 team against Safa Tshwane at the Nike Training Centre in Soweto.
For the NPFL All-Stars, one thing was missing and that was the cutting edge in front of goal.
The game was barely 10 minutes old when the defence of the NPFL All-Stars was caught by a ball-over-the-top, and in an attempt to scoop the ball away off Safa Tshwane forward Katlego Mampa, defender Bilal Yusuf tripped his opponent in the box and conceded an early spot kick.
Just nine minutes into the game, Safa Tshwane got their noses in front when Mampa calmly converted the spot kick beyond NPFL All-Stars goalkeeper Mohammed Galadima who guessed the direction right but could not stop the kick.
Mampa's goal defined the game from that point as his team sat back to face the high pressing play of the NPFL All-Stars with the hope of hitting them on the counter-attack which rarely happened in the first half.
Twelve minutes after Safa Tshwane's goal, the NPFL All-Stars evened the score. It was not the prettiest of goals but Austin Eguavoen's team will take it.
Safa Tshwane goalkeeper failed to deal with a low cross by spilling it in the six-yard box, and his defenders could only roll the ball into the path of Dini who tapped into an open net for the equaliz\ser.
The Nigerian team then continued to press for the winner before the break with Kano Pillars forward Nazifi Yahaya coming close twice before both teams retired into the locker rooms after the first 30 minutes.
Nazifi, Dini, Mustapha Salisu Musa, Rafiu Ishaq and substitute Toluwase Arokodare, who plays for Gombe United, had chances to put the game to bed without breaching the defence of Safa Tshwane for the second time in the game.
NPFL All-Stars head coach Austin Eguavoen believes the 1-1 draw with Safa Tshwane was "a fair result" though he felt his team should have wrapped it up with a win considering their dominance.
"First games at tournaments like this for young players is always key. If you lose then you might be in trouble. Playing to a 1-1 draw is a fair result though we missed chances," Eguavoen said after the game.
The NPFL All-Stars will start Tuesday's schedule at the Future Champions Gauteng with a match-up against Italian side Torino FC. The game is live on SuperSport Select from 11.15am (10.15am Nigerian time).