African champions, Super Falcons were eliminated from the race to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics women’s football tournament on Monday after forcing the Les Elephantes of Cote d’Ivoire to a 1-1 draw at the Agege Stadium in Lagos.
Both teams had settled for a scoreless draw in Abidjan on Thursday, meaning the Les Elephantes progress to the penultimate round of the qualification series against Cameroon.
Both teams started the return leg with huge fight in them. Nigeria’s Gift Monday rattled goalkeeper Cynthia Djohore as early as the 6th minute only to see her shot pushed away for a corner kick. But the Falcons failed to utilise the series of corner kicks that followed.
The visitors took the lead in a most unexpected manner six minutes later, as Nina Kpaho, straight from a free kick on the right, flighted the ball above a poorly –positioned goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie for the opener.
The Super Falcons did not lose steam, and in the 27th minute, skipper Asisat Oshoala should have equalized but watched her shot from a brilliant Gift Monday pass sail over the bar.
Seven minutes later, Nigeria drew level. From a counter attack, midfielder Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene put Oshoala through with an intelligent pass, and the captain kept her cool to steer the ball past the big Djohore.
In the 45th minute, Francisca Ordega should have done better than heave the ball over the bar from the left.
Six minutes after the restart, Rasheedat Ajibade, gifted with an opportunity just outside the box after Bernadette Amani and Joelle Kouassi missed the ball, could only blast the ball away past Djohore’s left side of goal.
As time wore on, the Falcons became more desperate as the Ivorians craftily wasted time now and again, and the introduction of Chinaza Uchendu and Folasade Ijamilusi failed to produce the goal that would have taken Nigeria to the next round.