Paris 2024: Esther Okoronkwo’s goal sends Super Falcons to final qualifying round

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Nigeria reached the final round of the African qualifying series for this year’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament after Esther Okoronkwo’s 15th minute goal at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja separated Nigeria and Cameroon in a turgid 180-minute battle over two legs.

 

After 105 minutes of scoreless action (90 minutes in Douala and 15 minutes in Abuja), the Henan FC of China forward took matters into her own hands. Latching onto the ball from a long thrust out of the defence, Okoronkwo outpaced her markers and got close to the byline before finding captain Rasheedat Ajibade, whose chip was parried by the brilliant goalkeeper Michaely Bihina, only onto the path of the onrushing Okonronkwo who finished with aplomb.

 

Jennifer Echegini, whose disallowed goal in Douala on Friday was still subject of controversy among pundits, had blazed over the sticks in the 13th minute, before Okoronkwo’s excellent effort. In the 32nd minute, Cameroon came very close from a corner kick when Menene Meyong got her head to the ball, but goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie stopped its progress to the far corner.

 

Ajibade and Okoronkwo had efforts blocked by Bihina, and Cameroon’s Mana Lamine blazed over the bar with two minutes left in the first period.

 

In the second period, Bihina kept out all efforts by Ajibade, Echegini and substitutes Akudo Ogbonna and Asisat Oshoala. On the hour mark, Cameroon thought they had equalized when Marie Ngah Manga got her head to a cross by the energetic substitute Marie Enganemben, but Nnadozie stretched full length to parry the ball out of danger.

 

The Lionesses finished with 10 men when the volatile Enganemben pushed Nnadozie during a bizarre rush by Cameroonian players to touch Nnadozie’s net.

 

Victory sets up a mouth-watering final round fixture between nine-time champions of Africa, Nigeria and reigning African champions South Africa, which will be disputed in April.

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