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HANDBALL: Nigeria U19 Team Win Silver In Kosovo

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Chinese Taipei claimed the 2018-19 IHF Men’s Youth (U19) Trophy Intercontinental Phase title with a come-from-behind victory against Nigeria in the last few minutes, while host nation Kosovo finished in third place by beating Canada (32-26) in the bronze medal match on Sunday.

Chinese Taipei came into the final against Nigeria buoyed by memories of a 36-18 thrashing of the Nigerian team on the opening day and by half time, the Asians seemed to have everything under control.

That 18-goal victory in the opening game came against a tired Nigerian side who had just arrived in the country, and at 5:2 up (11th minute) in Sunday’s final, it looked like being more of the same.

Nigeria did come back a little in the first period thanks to two two-minute suspensions for their opponents (7:6 down in the 18th minute) but once they were back to full strength, Taipei again opened their lead to go into the break at 14:11.

The second half was frantic. By the 40th minute Nigeria led 17:16 as captain Ibrahim Dikko cajoled his team into a 4:0 run, his goal equalising the score and then his neat ball into Ebinatei Ekpodio which put the Nigerians in front for the first time, 17:16, and prompted a Taipei time-out with just under 10 minutes gone in the second period.

From this point on the teams were inseparable, with two moments from Nigeria highlighting their adaptability in attack – first, from a free-throw, Faruk Yusuf smashed directly home, spinning around after the whistle blew (18:17) and then Dikko shot at goal, saw his shot saved, but Abdulrahman Abdulazeez was there to follow it up, punching it in.

With five minutes left, the teams were still deadlocked (25:25) but a two-minute suspension for Nigeria’s Hakeem Damilare Salami provided an opportunity for the Asian side to get back into the game once again as Yen Ting Lin converted the seven-metre to make it 26:25. 

Nigeria did equalise again, but Lin put his side up with just over a minute remaining and it was down to Nigeria to have one last chance, but Yusuf mishandled and turned over the ball.

A time-out swiftly followed for Taipei to rest their nerves and they played out the clock for the last 40 seconds to take the title.

In the Junior (U21) category, Nigeria finished in fifth place with host nation Kosovo taking the gold ahead of Chinese Taipei. The USA defeated Paraguay in the bronze medal match. 

Nigeria also won the fair play award and goalkeeper Michael Agbaji Solomon finished with the best save percentage with 44 saves from 111 shots (40%).

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