In the highly anticipated first leg of the 2024 Paris Olympic qualifier, the Super Falcons of Nigeria faced off against Ethiopia in a thrilling 1-1 draw at the Abebe Bikila Stadium in Addis Ababa. Ogunwatch brings you all the details from this exciting match.
The 11-time African champions, the Super Falcons, took to the field without their head coach, Randy Waldrum, for this away encounter.
Assistant coach Justin Madugu stepped in for the American tactician and made some key lineup decisions. Chiamaka Nnadozie guarded the goal, while Michelle Alozie and Nicole Payne played as full-backs.
In central defense, Oluwatosin Demehin and Akudo Ogbonna held the fort, with Peace Efih, Toni Payne, and Rasheedat Ajibade forming the midfield trio. The attack was led by the formidable Asisat Oshoala, with Uchenna Kanu and Gift Monday operating on the wings.
The Ethiopian women’s senior team, known as “The Lucy,” started the match with a bang, taking the lead just six minutes in when Birkie Amare rose highest to head in a corner kick. The Super Falcons struggled to find their footing, especially without key players like Halimatu Ayinde, Regina Otu, Osinachi Ohale, and Christy Ucheibe.
However, the Falcons mounted a comeback in the second half, with Rasheedat Ajibade equalizing with a sublime finish in the 51st minute.
They took control of the game, and substitute Ifeoma Onumonu came close to putting Nigeria in the lead in the 64th minute, but her attempt was denied by the Ethiopian defense. Payne and Onumonu combined for another excellent opportunity in the 79th minute, but Asisat Oshoala couldn’t convert the chance.
The Falcons appeared to have secured the win when Onumonu headed home in injury time, but the Algerian referee, Lamia Atman, spotted foul play in the build-up, and the goal was disallowed.
Both teams will clash once again in the return leg, scheduled for the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja on Tuesday. The aggregate winner of this tie will advance to the third round, where they will face the winner of the Cameroon/Uganda fixture.
For the crucial return leg in Abuja, Edoh Kindedji from Togo will officiate the match, with Abra Sitsofe Agbedanou and Kossiwa Kayigan Awoutey from Togo as assistant referees 1 and 2, respectively.
Yacine Samassa from Mauritania will take on the role of fourth official in what promises to be an intense battle for a spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics.