AWCON: Mercurial Oparanozie Earns Falcons Final Berth
Nigeria’s Desire Oparanozie ensured the Super Falcons remained on course for a 10th women’s AFCON final, after her timely, solo strike beat opponent’s defence line and a hapless goalie and help her side bok a place with hosts Cameroon in the final of the championship game on Saturday.
Oparanozie, frustrated for most parts of the game, turned match-winner when her hugely deflected 45th minute free-kick proved to be the difference between both sides.
But for the South Africans’ goal chalked off for off-side in the first-half, it would have been a draw and led to penalties.
Late in the game, Ugo Njoku almost caused an own goal but goalkeeper Alaba Jonathan was alert to keep out the danger, before Faith Ikidi made two goal line clearances in quick succession as Banyana Banyana poured forward in a bid to draw level.
Saturday’s final will be a repeat of the 2014 championship game in Namibia which Nigeria won 2-0 at the expense of the Cameroonians, while Ghana and South Africa would play the third-place game on Friday.
Banyana frustrated and dominated Nigeria, the first team to do so in a tournament where the undisputed Queens of African football have wiped the floor with their opponents. Two goal-line clearances at the death kept Nigeria in the match. Thembi Kgatlana, after breezing past Nigeria’s defence with her skills, and Linda Motlhalo, in a good scoring position, could have found the back of the net but they didn’t and that was the difference between Banyana contesting the third-place play-off on Friday in Yaounde against Ghana and Nigeria battling for continental supremacy against the hosts.
For the better part of the match, especially the first half, it looked like the Banyana would appear in their fifth final at the expense of the arch-rivals who have tormented them in this competition, but Oparanozie came good via a free-kick, denying the South Africans everything they hoped for.
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