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Nigeria qualify for AWCON after surviving penalty scare to edge Ivory Coast

By Ifeanyi Ibeh
23 February 2022   |   8:43 pm
Nigeria’s Super Falcons, Africa’s most successful women’s team of all-time, are through to the 2022 Africa Women Cup of Nations after beating the Lady Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire 1-0 in Abidjan on Wednesday evening. Esther Okoronkwo, making only her second appearance for Nigeria, scored the only goal of the game to hand victory to the…

Super Falcons players recite the national team before the start of their Africa Women Cup of Nations qualifier against the Ivory Coast at the Stade Robert Champroux in Abidjan. Photo: Instagram/Super Falcons

Nigeria’s Super Falcons, Africa’s most successful women’s team of all-time, are through to the 2022 Africa Women Cup of Nations after beating the Lady Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire 1-0 in Abidjan on Wednesday evening.

Esther Okoronkwo, making only her second appearance for Nigeria, scored the only goal of the game to hand victory to the 11-time AWCON winners.

After securing a 2-0 win over the Lady Elephants in the first leg in the Nigerian capital Abuja, the Super Falcons still had it all to do in the Ivoirian commercial capital against a team that was responsible for preventing Nigeria from appearing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

With Asisat Oshoala still out with injury, the task of finding the goals, as it was in the first leg, fell on the shoulders of Okoronkwo and Ifeoma Onumonu who bagged a brace in the first led win.

Super Falcons boss Randy Waldrum also made two changes to the starting line-up from the first leg, bringing in midfielder Regina Otu and forward Francisca Ordega.

And the lively Ordega thought she had given Nigeria the lead midway into the first half, only for the goal to be ruled out by Nigerien referee Zouwaira Souley.

But the evening might had turned out differently for the Super Falcons as minutes after Ordega’s goal was ruled out, exactly on 34 minutes, referee Souley would yet again be the centre of attention when she awarded the hosts a penalty after judging that Ashleigh Plumptre, making only her second competitive appearance for the Super Falcons, had tripped an Ivoirian striker in the Nigerian area.

Goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, however, came to the rescue of the Leicester City captain as she saved the resultant penalty kick.

The Ivoirians continued to throw everything at the Super Falcons at the Stade Robert Champroux but continued to meet a steely Nigerian defence, as well as an inspired goalkeeper Nnadozie who would not give an inch.

The Super Falcons dug their feet into the ground in the second half, refusing to give the Lady Elephants any leeway. Plumptre, Onome Ebi, Osinachi Ohale and Michelle Alozie all held their ground as the Elephants increased their onslaughts.

A minute from the end, though, Okoronkwo scored the back-breaking goal that confirmed a 3-0 aggregate win for the Super Falcons to qualify for Morocco 2022 and secure sweet revenge over the Lady Elephants.