Nigeria survived a second-half onslaught to beat Mali 3-2 at the African 2016 Olympic Games football qualifying tournament in Senegal and complete a joyful weekend for coach Samson Siasia. The mother of former national team star Siasia was released Saturday 12 days after being kidnapped from a southern Nigerian village by gunmen on a motorbike.
Siasia, who was in Gambia preparing the Olympic hopefuls when the abduction occurred, said he had spoken to his "happy" 72-year-old mother before the Mali match. The coach watched his team survive an early scare to build a 3-0 half-time lead at Stade Caroline Faye in coastal city M'Bour in the second match of a Group B double-header.
Mali hit the woodwork just 35 seconds into the match before collapsing and Junior Ajayi Oluwafemi scored twice and Muhammed Usman once for the Nigerians by half-time. Adama Niane converted a penalty to offer the Malians a glimmer of hope and Soulyemane Sissoko claimed a second goal on 65 minutes from close range. Malian attempts to level included a sizzling Niane shot that flew just over deep in stoppage time.
Egypt, holders of the African record for Olympic football appearances with 11, went ahead through an early second-half header from star midfielder Mahmoud 'Kahraba' Abdel Moneim. But Algeria winger Zineddine Ferhat was allowed to dribble unopposed toward goal midway through the half before scoring with a low shot goalkeeper Mossad Awad should have saved.
Both north African teams had late opportunities to gain maximum points, but Algerian Abderrahmane Meziane and Egyptian substitute Mohamed Salem blundered. Play resumes Tuesday with a Group A double-header in Dakar. South Africa face fellow matchday 1 losers Zambia followed by Senegal against Tunisia.