Super Falcons are a step closer to qualifying for the 2024 Olympics in Paris after defeating Ethiopia 4-0 in the second leg of the second round of the women’s football qualifiers at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja on Tuesday.
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Two second-half goals from hard-working captain Rasheedat Ajibade, a first-half goal from US-based Uchenna Kanu and another from Barcelona striker Asisat Oshoala were enough to see Nigeria through to the last round of the qualifying series where they face the winners in the other game involving Cameroon and Uganda.
After playing a 1-1 draw against the Lucy — as the Ethiopian women’s senior team are known — in the first leg of the doubleheader at the Abebe Bikila Stadium, Addis Ababa last Wednesday, the Falcons knew only a win would send them through to the next round and they did that in style.
Assistant coach Justin Madugu, who stood in for American head coach, Randy Waldrum, made two changes to the team that drew in Addis Ababa with Rofiat Imuran coming in for Nicole Payne at right-back, while Ifeoma Onumonu started upfront ahead of Monday Gift.
It was a cagey affair in the first 15 minutes before Kanu got the first chance but saw her effort go wide. Then Oshoala almost gave the hosts the lead in the 24th minute but was denied by a fine save from the Ethiopian goalkeeper.
Five minutes later, Ajibade saw her fine header go inches wide as the Falcons continued their search for the opening goal. Falcons’ goalkeeper, Chiamaka Nnadozie, was called into action in the 30th minute and she made a brilliant save from close range from a free kick to stop the visitors from taking the lead.
The Falcons, however, got the breakthrough in the 45th minute through Kanu to ensure they went into the break with a 1-0 lead.
The team started the second half with more intent and it didn’t take long before Ajibade doubled the lead following a fine assist from Oshoala, who dribbled in from the right flank to set up the Atletico Madrid star for the second goal of the game.
Madugu sent in Nicole Payne for Imuran thereafter, while Comfort Folorunsho made her Falcons debut after coming in for Oluwatosin Demehin.
For her fine display, Oshoala was finally rewarded in the 68th minute, scoring the third goal of the encounter. The Barcelona forward finished off a fine assist from Kanu to put the game beyond the reach of the Ethiopians.
Four minutes later, Oshoala grabbed her second assist after setting up Ajibade for the fourth goal of the game. The 29-year-old again raced in from the right flank to set up Ajibade for her second goal of the match.
The fourth goal meant the game was practically over and the Falcons took their feet off the pedal but Michelle Alozie almost got on the score sheet with just five minutes to end of the game but narrowly missed her chance following a fine cross from Kanu.
The Falcons will battle perennial rivals Cameroon — who beat Uganda 3-2 on aggregate — in the final qualifiers for Paris 2024 as they hope to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since Beijing 2008.