Nigeria and Ethiopia’s senior women’s national team put up a hard-fought battle in Addis Ababa on Wednesday afternoon with the game ending 1-1 to set up an interesting return leg in Abuja on Tuesday next week.
Nigerian captain Rasheedat Ajibade’s scorching shot from the edge of the box, six minutes after the restart, restored parity at the Abebe Bikila Stadium, after the host (Ethiopia) had surprisingly taken the lead in the sixth minute of play as Birkie Amare capitalised from a corner kick.
With FC Barcelona forward, Asisat Oshoala in the top-striking position, Uchenna Kanu and Gift Monday operated from the wings, with Michelle Alozie switched to left back to allow Nicole Payne take charge at right back.
Reims defender, Oluwatosin Demehin and Akudo Ogbonna took control at the centre of the defence, and with Christy Ucheibe and Halimatu Ayinde unavailable, Peace Efih joined Toni Payne and Ajibade to string things together in the middle.
Both teams found it hard to create many opportunities in a tight first half, though Oshoala should have done better with an opportunity from Payne’s cross halfway into the period.
After Ajibade restored parity, the Falcons took full control, and substitute Ifeoma Onumonu should have put Nigeria in the lead in the 64th minute, only to be denied as she cocked the trigger.
Payne and Onumonu combined to create a gilt-edged opportunity in the 79th minute, but once more Oshoala failed to make hay.
The Falcons thought they had won it when Onumonu towered above all to head into the net on the dot of time.
However, Algerian referee Lamia Atman spotted foul play in the build-up.
Both teams will clash again at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Tuesday.
The winner on aggregate to proceed to the third round, where the winner of the Cameroon/Uganda fixture awaits.
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