A great second half display ensured Nigeria ladies began their 2015 Women’s World Cup campaign on an impressive note after forcing the Europeans to a draw on Monday night
A commanding second half display by Nigeria Women saw them hold Sweden to a 3-3 draw in their opening game at the Winnipeg Stadium, Winnipeg.
Goals from Asisat Oshoala, Ngozi Okobi and Francisca Ordega were all Edwin Okon’s ladies needed to fight back having gone down by two goals in the first half.
The Falcons, who have never defeated the Europeans, came into the game full of hope but were soon down in the 21st minute after Desire Oparanozie put the ball into her own net when Emma Berglund’s header ricocheted off her and into the net following a corner kick that left the Nigerians jittery.
Few minutes later, Nilla Fischer tapped into an open net from another corner kick owing to poor clearance by the African champions’ back line as veteran goalkeeper Precious Dede fluffed her clearance.
It was clear that the higher-ranked Swedes had perfected their game plan to employ corner kicks in rattling the Nigerians who had not lost in 10 matches coming into the encounter.
While youngster Oshoala saw an attempt go just wide of goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl’s goal and Oparanozie could not deliver a pin point cross into the box, the Nigerians went into half time facing an uphill task and a battle to regain their pre-match confidence.
Whatever coach Edwin Okon told his team at half time, it surely worked as the Falcons came back strongly into the game.
On resumption of the second half, Nigeria got two quick goals to draw level. First it was Okobi’s cool finish in the 50th minute that geared her team back to life. She received an Oparanozie pass from the right and shot under Lindahl to give some momentum to the Nigerians.
Three minutes later before the Swedes knew what hit them, Oshoala leveled up with a fine individual effort after a well-played long ball from Onome Ebi. The Liverpool ladies striker raced past experienced defender Fischer and Lindahl to get the Africans back into the game.
Just as the Nigerians were still celebratng and had taken their eyes off the ball, Linda Sembrant handed the lead back to Sweden after good build-up play on the left side resulted in Lina Nilsson’s cross that the substitute managed to direct past Dede with her thigh in the 60th minute.
However it was the Nigerians that would laugh last as Ordega salvaged a point for the Super Falcons three minutes from time with a shot that slipped through the legs of Lindahl, leaving matters level at 3-3.
Ngozi Okobi was named player of the match and Nigeria would next face Australia while Sweden would meet tournament favourites USA.