Nigeria’s senior ladies, Super Falcons squared off against Ethiopia in a hard-fought battle in Addis Ababa, keeping their hopes of competing in the 2024 Olympic Games alive.
The fascinating return leg in Abuja on Tuesday next week is being set up by the match that concluded in a 1-1 tie.
In just six minutes, Birkie Amare’s goal off a corner kick gave Ethiopia the lead. However, the Super Falcons were able to tie the game at the Abebe Bikila Stadium in the 52nd minute thanks to a spectacular strike from outside the box by Atletico Madrid’s Ajibade.
The Super Falcons were without their Head Coach Randy Waldrum for the game as Asisat Oshoala was in the top-striking position while Uchenna Kanu and Gift Monday operated from the wings.
Michelle Alozie switched to left back to allow Nicole Payne take charge at right back. Oluwatosin Demehin and Akudo Ogbonna took control at the centre of the defence, and with Christy Ucheibe and Halimatu Ayinde unavailable, Peace Efih joined Toni Payne and Ajibade to string things together in the middle.
Both teams found it hard to create many opportunities in a tight first period, though Asisat Oshoala should have done better with an opportunity from Payne’s cross halfway into the period.
After Ajibade restored parity, the Falcons took full control, and substitute Ifeoma Onumonu should have put Nigeria in the lead in the 64th minute, only to be denied as she cocked the trigger.
Payne and Onumonu combined to create a gilt-edged opportunity in the 79th minute, but once more Oshoala failed to make hay.
The Falcons thought they had won it when Onumonu towered above all to head into the net on the dot of time. However, Algerian referee Lamia Atman spotted foul play in the build-up.
The return leg is set to take place on Tuesday, October 31, 2023, at the MKO Abiola National Stadium in Abuja. The winner on aggregate will play the winner of the Cameroon/Uganda match for a spot in the qualification series’ final round.
The Olympic Games of the following year will take place in Paris and a few other French cities from July 26 to August 11.