Cup holders Nigeria set their 12th Women Africa Cup of Nations campaign back on track with a 2-0 win over Botswana in Rabat on Thursday, in the process rising to second place in Group C behind soar-away leaders South Africa.
Botswana, 4-2 winners over Burundi on the opening day, were stuck in second place following the Super Falcons’ 1-2 reverse against the Banyana Banyana. On Thursday, US-based forward Ifeaoma Onumonu, who scored two of the three goals that downed Cote d’Ivoire’s Lady Elephants in the final qualifying fixture, put the Falcons on their way with a sweet finish in the 21st minute from an intelligent through pass crafted by Halimat Ayinde.
Before that, the champions looked brighter on the break than they did against South Africa, with Rasheedat Ajibade, Ifeaoma Onumonu, and Francisca Ordega launching onslaughts that unsettled the Botswanans.
In the 26th minute, Nigeria could have been two goals up when Ordega found Toni Payne with a stylish pass and the defender sent the ball into the box, only for the southern Africans to clear their lines. Two minutes later, Onumonu failed to control in good time a good pass by Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene.
Botswana had their own song in the half, with Tholakele rattling goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie from a 22-yard free-kick in the 31st minute and then shooting straight at the Nigerian goal-tender six minutes later.
Substitute Christy Ucheibe, with her first touch of the ball, scored Nigeria’s second goal in the 48th minute when she rose highest in the box to nod home Toni Payne’s heaved effort from a corner kick.
Five minutes later, Ucheibe controlled and lashed slightly over the bar, and when Gift Monday and Regina Otu entered the fray in place of Ordega and Okobi-Okeoghene in the 63rd minute, Nigeria’s rejuvenation was unmistakable.
Onumonu had a couple more chances; Ayinde’s angled shot from 25 yards was punched away and; Uchenna Kanu’s shot was blocked as Nigeria pulled no punches in the fore.
The Super Falcons will on Sunday come up against their counterparts from Burundi, with a win certain to guarantee a place in the quarter-finals of the championship.