Nigeria eased to a 2-0 win over Botswana to get their first points of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. The Super Falcons were not at their dynamic best, but they were much improved following their loss to South Africa and are growing into the tournament.
Story of the match
Under the lights at the Prince Moulay Hassan stadium, Nigeria came out the blocks. The Super Falcons came close in the fifth minute, when captain Onome Ebi’s volley following a corner was well blocked.
The champions took the lead eventually when Halimatu Ayine’s incisive through ball found Ifeoma Onumonu who clipped the ball over the oncoming Maitumelo Bosija.
The Mares were struggling to cope with the Nigerian press and could not get out of their half. Their first shot on goal didn’t arrive until the 29th minute when Refilwe Tholakele shot from 35 yards more in frustration than anything.
Tholakele, who was player of the match in her first game, was again the brightest spark for the Mares. She drew a sharp save from Chiamaka Nnadozie from a curling freekick. Minutes later she took matters into her own hands, dribbling past a couple players before drilling her shot down the throat of Nnadozie.
As in the first half, the Nigerian’s came out the blocks in the second half. This time though, their corner after two minutes was scored. Substitute Christy Ucheibe headered home with her first touch of the match.
Minutes later Ucheibe nearly got her second. This time following a knockdown from a free kick she smashed a volley just over the bar. Nigeria continued dominate the midfield battle, stifling Botswana’s attacking talent. But it was still set pieces where they posed the biggest threat
Another freekick from wide from Toni Payne causing problems in the box, this time the bright substitute Monday Gift seeing her header go straight at the keeper.
The new urgency injected from Gift as well as Otu Ibiang brought more positive football from the Super Falcons. Rasheedat Ajibade, having beaten her marker found Onumonu on the edge of the box who rifled her shot just wide.
Minutes later Uchiebe came close again from a low shot before Bosija pulled off a spectacular save to deny Halimatu Ayinde’s follow up effort.
Head coach Randy Waldrum will be pleased with the improvement his side showed. While still struggling to control the tempo f the game, the team was far more dominant and comfortable on the ball. With their next match against a Burundi side that they should dominate, the Super Falcons continue their rehabilitation in the tournament.
Botswana defended well for much of the match, and will be fairly confident of qualifying as a best third-place team, but they will need another defensive effort against South Africa to grab a priceless point or at the very least keep their goal difference in good shape.
One of the reasons that Nigeria could dominate the ball and attack more fluently was the role of Halimatu Ayinde. The holding midfielder was excellent in breaking up play and stopping Botswanan attacks in their tracks.
The midfielder is not the most progressive of passers, but she capped off her performance with a lovely incisive pass to set up Onumonu for her first goal.
Botswana – Bosija (gk), Mogotsi, Otlhagile (c), Montsho, Mochawe, Thanda, Selebatso, Johannes, Mahlasela, Radiakanyo, Tholakele
Substitutes – Abueng, Gaofetoge, Sechane, Galekhutle
Nigeria – Nnadozie (gk), Ohale, Ebi (c), Payne, Onumonu, Chikwelu, Okobi, Ajibade, Ordega, Ayinde, Alozie
Substitutes – Kanu, Ibiang, Gift, Chinonyerem, Ichiebe