Nine –time champions Nigeria put one leg into the 12th Women Africa Cup of Nations finals when beating their Ivorian counterparts 2-0 at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Friday.
A brace by US –based forward Ifeoma Onumonu took the Falcons above the visitors in the two-match fixture, the winner of which will proceed to the finals in Morocco, at which Africa’s flagbearers at next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup will emerge.
Petite and impressive winger Koko Ange N’Guessan came close to opening the scores after only three minutes when she came face to face with Chiamaka Nnadozie from a flowing move, but the France –based Nigeria number one thwarted with her right leg.
The lanky Onumonu, winning her first cap for Nigeria, thought she had got the first goal 12 minutes into the game when she scooped past goalkeeper Cynthia Djohore after being set up by Rasheedat Ajibade, but Burkinabe referee Jacqueline Nikiema insisted she had blown for an infringement in favour of the Nigerian playmaker.
Nine minutes later, Onumonu, who plays for Gotham FC in New York, was again in the right place to finish in splendid manner after the ball rolled to her from a goalmouth melee.
N’Guessan, Estelle Nahi, Christine Yeble and Amenah Kacou struck some good tunes in the midfield and attack for the Elephants, but Captain Onome Ebi and the impressive Ashleigh Plumptre, also winning her first cap, foiled their onsluaghts.
In the second half, the Ivorians piled even more pressure on the Nigeria rear, making Plumptre to work extra hard at the left side of the rear, while Ebi and Osinachi Ohale kept things in check at the right side.
In the 56th minute, Onumonu, with a knack for being in the right place at the right time, caught on to a floating ball from Nicole Payne, and cleverly chipped onrushing Djohore for Nigeria’s second goal.
The Super Falcons contingent will fly out of Nigeria on Sunday morning for the reverse leg, scheduled for the Stade Robert Champroux in Abidjan on Wednesday, 23rd February.