Nigeria booked a semi-final place with 4-2 victory over defending champion, Ghana to end a fiercely fought quarter final battle that reminisced all the features of the football rivalry between the two West African nations.
Both countries had a lot to play for as they stepped onto the Legacy Pitch of the National Stadium to determine who picked one of the semi-final tickets in the on-going Airtel Rising Stars Africa Championship in Lagos, Nigeria.
The early minutes of play saw an even game between both sides as they tried to size up each other. The Ghanaians however dominated play as the match wore on, and would have taken the lead but for the good defending put up by the Nigerians who were finding it more difficult to string passes together.
The Ghanaians, buoyed by the fans who cheered every move they made, piled more pressure on their Nigerian counterparts who appeared to be waiting for respite from the whistle of centre referee Folusho Ajayi.
The second half began on a more promising note for the Nigerians with the introduction of Rachael Brown by Coach Joseph Egbu who galvanized her mates to turn the heat on the Ghanaians.
Coach Egbu brought on Imeh James Obong to compound the worries of the Ghanaians, who were on the receiving end of several incursions into their vital area. The match eventually ended goalless after 60 minutes of regulation time with both sides fully aware of the national pride at stake by a loss.
Goalkeeper Augustina Unamba saved a spot kick from Victoria Kohadu to give Nigeria an advantage going into the last spot kick for both countries. Faith Onyinyechi looked to have handed the Ghanaians a victory after she missed the opening spot kick for Nigeria. Ghana’s Berlinda Anane struck her kick onto the wood work to bring Nigeria at parity.
The Nigerian girls will face the Kenyans in the first semi-final match tomorrow at the Agege Township Stadium at 10 am Nigerian time. It would be recalled Nigeria ran away with a lone goal victory over the Kenyans at the tournament opener decided on Match day one at the same stadium. The Kenyan girls beat Chad 3-0 in the second semi-final match played at the NIS Sports Field, National Stadium,Lagos.
To get to this stage, the Nigerian female team defeated Kenya in the group and tournament opener followed by the 8-0 spanking of Gabon and a lone goal victory over DRC on Thursday at the Main bowl of the National Stadium.
This year’s edition of the ARS kicked off Monday at the Agege Township Stadium with host Nigeria recording respective victories in the opening group matches against Kenya female and DRC male teams.
The finals will come up this Sunday at same venue with command performance by renowned Nigerian Artiste, Tuface Idibia, NGT Winner, Amarachi Uyanne and NGT First runner-up, Godwin Ogechukwu.
The Airtel Rising Stars Africa U-17 soccer tournament is a unique pan-African initiative of Airtel Africa, designed to create a pool of talents to feed the national football teams of African countries.