Ifeoma Onumonu’s brace powered Nigeria to a 2-0 victory over Ivory Coast in the first leg of the 2022 Africa Women Cup of Nations final qualifying fixture.
Even in the absence of Barcelona star Asisat Oshoala, Onumonu rose to the occasion at the newly renovated Moshood Abiola National Stadium to boost the Super Falcons’ chances of playing in Morocco later in the year.
The Gotham FC striker had a remarkable competitive debut for Randy Waldrum’s side after featuring in last year’s friendly matches at the United States of America Summer Series.
Onumonu opened the scoring to the delight of home fans in the 21st minute following a link-up with Esther Okoronkwo.
The strike separated the teams at the half-time break and the California-born star grabbed her second goal of the day just before the hour-mark after connecting with a through-ball and she lobbed an on-rushing Ivory Coast goalkeeper.
Meanwhile, Leicester City defender Ashleigh Plumptre made an impressive starting debut for Nigeria and delivered a player-of-the-match performance as she partnered captain Onome Ebi at the centre of the defence.
Athletico Madrid star Rasheedat Ajibade also played the duration as well and she pulled the strings as the Super Falcons fought to dominate the midfield.
Ivory Coast did not go down without a challenge in Abuja as they constantly pushed to reduce the deficit but goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie produced some fine saves while the defenders, on their part, made crucial blocks and tackles to keep a clean sheet.
The victory gives Nigeria an edge ahead of the second-leg fixture against Ivory Coast at the Stade Robert Champroux, Abidjan on February 23.
The Super Falcons are the most successful team in the Africa Women Cup of Nations history with 11 titles and they are challenging to feature in the 14th edition of the tournament that is scheduled for July in Morocco.