The Super Falcons of Nigeria on Wednesday defeated the Lady Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire 1-0 in Abidjan to reach the finals of the 2022 Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON).
Nigeria, the nine-time African champions, qualified for the 2022 AWCON by defeating Cote d’Ivoire on 3-0 aggregate.
They had beaten their opponents 2-0 at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja on Friday after a brace from Gotham FC striker Ifeoma Onumonu.
On Wednesday, the Ivorians threw everything into the return leg encounter at the Stade Robert Champroux.
But they met a steely Nigerian defence and an inspired goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie who would not give an inch.
The game however flowed back and forth for a large period of the first half.
Falcons’ coach Randy Waldrum made two changes to the starting line-up from the first leg, bringing in midfielder Regina Otu and forward Francisca Ordega, and this worked.
The lively Ordega thought she had given Nigeria the lead halfway into the first period, but Nigerien referee Zouwaira Souley ruled it out.
In the 34th minute, Souley however awarded a penalty kick to the hosts after judging that Ashleigh Plumptre had tripped an Ivorian striker in the Nigerian penalty area.
Goalkeeper Nnadozie however saved the shot, and the contact from the same player off the rebound went into side-netting.
Falcons dug their feet into the ground in the second half, refusing to give the Lady Elephants any leeway.
Plumptre, team captain Onome Ebi, Osinachi Ohale and Michelle Alozie all held their ground as the Elephants heightened their onslaughts.
A minute to the end, Esther Okoronkwo, winning only her second cap for Nigeria, scored the back-breaker to secure a 3-0 aggregate win for the Super Falcons.
The victory and qualification for Morocco 2022 was sweet revenge over the Lady Elephants, who bumped the Falcons on the road to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Nigeria will, therefore, make a record 12th appearance at the AWCON in Morocco in June.