Cup holders Nigeria had no hesitation in spelling ‘Malian’, putting six unreplied goals past their West African counterparts in the opening match of Group B of the 10th Women Africa Cup of Nations in Limbe on Sunday.
Fleet –footed Asisat Oshoala, 2014 African Woman Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player of the last edition of the championship in Namibia, stole the giant size of the shine, scoring four of the six goals even as the Falcons hardly stepped out of first gear.
USA –based Francisca Ordega started the rout with a smart finish from Ugo Njoku’s run down the Malian defence in the 22nd minute. Before that, Oshoala’s darting run and pass in the 15th minute was fluffed by Uchechi Sunday, who wasted a number of opportunities on the day.
Four minutes after Ordega’s goal, midfielder Halimatu Ayinde came close after a good move but her chip rocked the upright with the Malian goalie beaten. Five minutes before recess, Oshoala read brilliantly a through pass and beat the goalie before slotting into an empty net for her first and Nigeria’s second.
A minute into the second half, Sunday again missed with only the goalie to beat from Faith Ikidi pass, but she made it three from the penalty spot a minute later after Osarenoma Igbinovia was brought down in the box.
Thereafter, it became an ‘Oshoala Show’. The introduction of a clever Chioma Wogu for fumbling Sunday worked well for her. In the 62nd minute, Oshoala latched onto a header by Wogu to outrun a defender and the goalkeeper before smashing into the roof of the net, and six minutes later, benefitted from another Wogu pass to meander past two defenders and slot past the goalkeeper.
Her fourth, and Nigeria’s sixth, came from another brilliant pass, from captain Rita Chikwelu, with 12 minutes left.
The Falcons will certainly meet stronger opposition from Ghana’s Black Queens, whom they play in their next match on Wednesday.