Ajibade scores as Falcons hold Ethiopia in Olympic qualifier

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The Super Falcons played a 1-1 draw with Ethiopia in the first leg of the second round of the 2024 Paris Olympic qualifier at the Abebe Bikila Stadium, Addis Ababa on Wednesday, SKYBLAST TV reports.

It was a poor performance from the 11-time African champions, who were without head coach, Randy Waldrum, for the first encounter away from home.

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Assistant coach Justin Madugu, who stood in for the American tactician, retained  Chiamaka Nnadozie in goal, with Michelle Alozie playing from the left-back, while Nicole Payne played  at right-back.

Oluwatosin Demehin and Akudo Ogbonna took control at the centre of defence while Peace Efih joined Toni Payne and Rasheedat Ajibade in the middle.

With Asisat Oshoala in the top-striking position, Uchenna Kanu and Gift Monday operated from the wings.

It was, however, the hosts who started on the front foot as Birkie Amare grabbed the opener just six minutes into the game after she rose highest to nod home a header from a corner kick.

The Lucy, as the Ethiopian women’s senior team are known, took control of the game and were totally dominant with the Falcons left bereft of ideas.

Without quartet Halimatu Ayinde, Regina Otu, Osinachi Ohale and Christy Ucheibe, the Falcons were on the back foot for long periods as the Ethiopians kept throwing everything they had at the West Africans and they could have gone a couple of goals ahead but were denied by the in-form Nnadozie, in goal for the Falcons.

However, the Falcons put up an improved performance after the restart as Ajibade restored parity in the 51st minute with a sublime finish.

The Falcons took full control, and substitute Ifeoma Onumonu should have put Nigeria in the lead in the 64th minute, only to be denied by a fine block from the hosts defensive line.

Payne and Onumonu combined to create a gilt-edged opportunity in the 79th minute, but once more Oshoala failed to convert the chance.

The Falcons thought they had won it when Onumonu towered above all to head home on the dot of time. However, Algerian referee Lamia Atman spotted foul play in the build-up.

Both teams will clash again at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja Tuesday, with the winners on aggregate to proceed to the third round, where the winners of the Cameroon/Uganda fixture await.

For Tuesday’s return leg in Abuja, Edoh Kindedji from Togo will be referee, with her compatriots Abra Sitsofe Agbedanou and Kossiwa Kayigan Awoutey as assistant referee 1 and assistant referee 2 respectively. Yacine Samassa from Mauritania will be in the role of fourth official.

Daloba Oulare from Guinea will be the referee assessor and Christine Ziga from Ghana will serve as match commissioner.

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