The Super Falcons belatedly got their 2018 African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) title defense off the ground by thrashing the Shepolopolo of Zambia 4 – 0 on Wednesday, 21 November at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium in Ghana.
Desire Oparanozie put the Falcons ahead in the 42nd minute following a beautiful interchange on the left wing involving Halimatu Ayinde and Francisca Ordega who then set up the striker to fire into the roof of the net.
Ordega put the Falcons further ahead in the 69th minute when she curled a delightful effort beyond Natasha Nali after Oparanozie’s shot had rebounded off the base of the post. It was three soon after when substitute Rasheedat Ajibade unleashed a piledriver that cannoned in off the underside of the crossbar from outside are in the 75th minute.
Ajibade had come in for Oparanozie in the 70th minute and it was another substitute Amarachi Okonkwo who put the game to bed in the 94th minute with a shot from outside the area that Nali should have saved but the Falcons won’t care.
While the score-line at the end was emphatic, the truth is that it greatly flattered the Zambians as the Falcons should have scored a boatload of goals with Oparanozie and Oshoala in particular who spurned seven gilt-edged goal-scoring opportunities, guilty of very bad misses.
For all their pregame bluster, Shepolopolo were subdued and lacked the vibrancy that marked their five-nil thrashing of Equatorial Guinea with coach Bruce Mwape deciding to stick with the same starting line-up from their opening game following the failure of captain Barbara Banda to recover from a knock she picked up in training.
Falcons Coach, Thomas Dennerby had made a single change to his side with the more experienced Ngozi Okobi coming in for Rasheedat Ajibade who had made her debut in the game against South Africa. Okobi’s inclusion was the catalyst for a much-improved performance from Nigeria who were much better in possession and following criticism from Dennerby about their passing in the game against South Africa, the Falcons passed with a bit more purpose that saw them carve out numerous goal-scoring opportunities.
The Super Falcons have now beaten the Shepolopolo both times they’ve faced off at the AWCON by a cumulative score of 9 – 0 with Oparanozie scoring three times against them after notching up a brace the last time these sides met in Namibia in 2014. Other goal-scorers from that game who also took to the field on Wednesday were Osinachi Ohale, Asisat Oshoala, and Ngozi Okobi.
In the second Group B game played at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium, South Africa continued from where they left off against Nigeria with an absolute pasting of two-time champions Equatorial Guinea to further put teams on notice about their ambition.
The seven goals scored by Banyana Banyana was the first time a team would score a least seven goals at an AWCON since Nigeria whitewashed Morocco 8 – 0 at the 1998 edition of the tournament which they hosted.
Both teams made three changes to their teams from the opening matches with Banyana Banyana starting Linda Motlhalo, Chrestinah Kgatlana who scored the winning goal against Nigeria and Nompumelelo Nyandeni in the places of Refiloe Jane, Mamello Makhabane and Busiswe Ndimeni. For Equatorial Guinea, out went Esperanza Mbang Mba, Chinasa Okoro, and the injured Jacky Annette Messomo and in their place were Blessing Diala, Avelina Abang and Luz Obono Obiang.
If Coach Jean-Paul Pila had made the changes hoping to shore-up his side after they leaked five goals against Zambia, he was sorely mistaken. South Africa carved out two excellent goal-scoring opportunities inside three minutes to set the tone for the rest of the game and it was a miracle that it took all of 19 minutes for the first goal to come.
Linda Motlhalo opening the scoring from the spot in the 19th after referee Dorsaf Ganouati called a handball inside the area. The second goal came just three minutes later after Kgatlana wove through the right wing and laid on a peach of a pass for Nyandeni to side-foot home. It was a beautifully worked goal but the defending from the Nzalang Nacional was atrocious.
Banyana Banyana continued to dominate and Kgatlana thought she had scored in the 44th minute but Jermaine Seoposenwe had been offside in the build-up. Elena Nkuandum halved the deficit for Equatorial Guinea following a mix-up in the South Africa box to give Nzalang Nacional some hope going into the break but it was brutally snuffed out as Banyana Banyana scored five more goals after the break.
Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis brought on the electric Refiloe Jane at half-time in place of Kgaelebane Mohlakoana and her combination with Kgatlana wrecked more havoc on the Equatorial Guinea defense. Jane scored in the 56th minute following a wonderful piece of dribbling from match MVP Kgatlana before returning the favour when she set up Kgatlana to score in the 60th minute. Kgatlana added another in the 63rd minute before making way for Amanda Mthandi who also got on the score-sheet in the 76th minute.
Jermaine Seoposenwe completed the rout adding the seventh goal in the 79th minute to leave South Africa on the cusp of a semi-final place and Equatorial Guinea ruing the decision by CAF to readmit them into the tournament after having conceded twelve goals in two group games.
South Africa lead Group B with six points and a goal difference of +7 followed by Nigeria and Zambia who both have three points each with a goals difference of +3 and +1 respectively while Equatorial Guinea prop up the group on zero points and a –11 goal difference.
Next up for teams is the last set of group matches with Nigeria taking on Equatorial Guinea at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium while South Africa battle against regional rivals Zambia at the Accra Sports Stadium. Both matches will be played simultaneously on Saturday 24, November by 5 pm.
2018 AWCON Top Scorers
Chrestinah Thembi Kgatlana (South Africa) 3 Goals.
Racheal Kundananji (Zambia) 2 Goals.
Ajara Njoya Nchout (Cameroon) 2 Goals.
Bassira Toure (Mali) 2 Goals.