Nigeria on Saturday at the Ahmadou
Ahidjou Stadium defeated hosts Cameroon 1-0 in the final of the 2016 African
Women’s Cup of Nations to lift the title for a record eighth time.
Avant Guingamp of France striker,
Desire Oparanozie, gave the Super Falcons the victory over the Indomitable
Lionesses in a tensed match, which could have gone either way. The stadium was
filled to capacity as fans of the host country came to cheer their team to
Nigeria have now defeated Cameroon
in three finals in the history of the competition. The Super Falcons stopped
the Lionesses from lifting the AWCON title in the 2004 edition, when they beat
them 5-0, and also the 2014 edition when Cameroon lost 2-0 to Nigeria courtesy
of goals from Oparanozie and Arsenal Ladies forward, Asisat Oshoala.
Enroute to Saturday’s final, the
Falcons and the Lionesses were undefeated. Nigeria beat Mali 6-0 before playing
a 1-1 draw with Ghana and beating Kenya 4-0. The Nigerians edged out South
Africa 1-0 in the semifinals while Cameroon beat Egypt 2-0 before beating South
Africa and Zimbabwe 1-0 and 2-0 respectively. The hosts beat Ghana 1-0 to book
a date against Nigeria.
Saturday’s match at the Ahmadou
Ahidjo Omnisports Stadium was a repeat of the 2014 final between the two
countries but the Lionesses were playing in front of their fans, who kept
cheering them on.
Coach Florence Omagbemi retained
the team which defeated BanyanaBanyana in the semifinals as Oparanozie was
handed her second start of the tournament.
The two sides began the match on a
cautious note as they sized each other up but the hosts gradually took control
of the game pegging back the defending champions. The opening chances were all
about the Cameroonians who attacked relentlessly.
Nigeria goalkeeper, Alaba Jonathan,
who kept clean sheets in four of the Falcons’ five matches at the tournament,
was the busier of the two keepers as the Lionesses made several incursions into
the Nigerian territory.
Gabrielle Onguene carved out the
first chance of the game in the fifth minute when she skipped past three
Nigerian players before shooting wide from inside the box but Nigeria’s best
chance in the opening minutes fell to Vittsjo GIK midfielder Ngozi Okobi, who
fired over after going past her marker.
Onguene’s pace continued to trouble
the Nigerian backline but the Lionesses could not make their early attacking
play count. With less than 15 minutes to the break, Ngono Mani was left with
Alaba to beat. The Nigerian goalkeeper did enough to tip away Mani’s attempt
before Onome Ebi cleared.
The African champions began the
second half on the back foot as Onguene, current African Women Player of the
Year, Gaelle Enganamouit, and Mani kept pressing and forcing Jonathan to make a
timely save to keep the game scoreless.
But in the 85th minute, Oparanozie
had Nigeria’s only shot on target in the second half as she received a chip
from Okobi, dragged the ball past her marker inside the box before firing it
low beyond Annette Ndom in Cameroon’s goal.