Nigeria women’s national team managed to claim a 1-0 win over their Malian counterparts in the ongoing WAFU Women Tournament holding in Cote D’Ivoire.
Widely regarded as favourites for the title, the Super Falcons faced an unexpected challenge from Mali who proved more technical and athletic all through the encounter, which was Group B’s second game of the day.
The Malians seized control of the midfield at the go but their option for long and high balls played into the hands of the Nigerians, who are taller and more physically fit.
Traore Aissata drifted to the right flank after outpacing defender Ologbosere Mary, but her excellent pull-out failed to find a yellow shirt in Nigeria’s box.
As the game grew in stature, Mali were turning more confident, creating half a dozen goal chances by the 25 minute.
The Falcons remained on the defensive, with captain Jegede Joy releasing a few players on counterattack which Mali kept repelling with success.
Doumbia Fatoumata claimed a long cross in Nigeria area and wasted no time before aiming her effort at the post. Goalkeeper Nndozie Chiamaka parried calmly but never stopped screaming at her teammates who were yet to put smile on the faces of their supporters at the Parc des Sports in Triechville, Abidjan.
The scoreline was goalless at halftime, with Mali attracting more ovations from the public than Nigeria.
Back from the break, coach Dennerby Thomas, the only white coach of the tournament, altered the Falcons’ wide play pattern and opted for a compact system with more emphasis on the midfield. This affected Mali, who were now burning more energy to cross into their opponents’ area.
However, Mali’s Tangara Mawa was able to head home a corner-kick but the lineswoman quickly raised her flag and the goal was disallowed.
Nigeria began to show ascendency as fatigue settled in for the Malians.
Wogu Chioma and Efih Peace had their share of chances but failed to find the target, as Nigerian presence was being felt more and more in Mali’s area.
With the score still goalless by the 85th minute, the Malians were probably going to settle with that but Nigeria kept pushing. The breakthrough came with the last corner-kick of the game which fell on to the path of Efih Peace, who was able to slot home the ball through a forest of legs. Nigeria 1 Mali 0 at the final whistle.
Nigeria will face on Friday Senegal who defeated Togo 6-0 earlier on Thursday.
Results from Group A:
Hosts Cote D’Ivoire humbled Ghana 1-0 on Wednesday in the tournament’s opener, while Burkina Faso crushed Niger 5-1 same day.