Super Falcons of Nigeria fought gallantly against Morocco before narrowly losing 4-5 on penalty shoot-out, in a supercharged 12th Women Africa Cup of Nations semi final match in Rabat on Monday.
A total of 45,562 spectators turned the Complexe Prince Moulay Abdellah into a boiling cauldron, and only their experience, guts, grit and determination kept the nine-time African champions firmly in the game all their move was booed while the Lionesses were roared on the moment they had the ball.
The Lionesses, who last played at the Women AFCON 22 years ago, before the current finals that they are hosting, started like a house on fire and pegged the Falcons to the rear in the early minutes. But gangling Ifeoma Onumonu should have given Nigeria the lead in the 13th minute when she was brilliantly set up by Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene.
Three minutes into the second half, Mauritian referee Maria Rivet stopped play for a VAR check, only to return and hand a red card to midfielder Halimat Ayinde. The decision shocked the Super Falcons, who had been been challenged by lasers focused on their eyes by spectators,vsome minutes later, Rashidat Ajibade was issued another red card to leave the Super Falcons play nine against eleven.
Morocco leveled only four minutes after, when Nnadozie failed to deal with a cross by the ubiquitous Tagnaout and Mssoudy gratefully slammed into the net.
Nnadozie made a dozen saves towards the end and in the ensuing extra time, with the Lionesses all over the place, but Nigeria could have won it when Gift Monday beat the hosts’ defence on the counter and crashed a well-measured shot against the crossbar, only for the ball to roll out.
In the penalty shootout, forward Ifeoma Onumonu missed for Nigeria as Rita Chikwelu, Regina Otu, Ashleigh Plumptre and Gift Monday scored. Morocco scored all their kicks, through Yasmin Mrabet, Ghizlane Chebbak, Zineb Redouane, Nesryne El Chad and Rosella Ayane.
Morocco will take on South Africa (1-0 winners over Zambia in the first semi final) in Saturday’s final in Rabat, while the Super Falcons will clash against the Copper Queens of Zambia for the bronze medals in Casablanca on Friday.