Nigeria was crowned the 2018 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations champions on Saturday, beating South Africa 4-3 on penalties in the final in Accra.
The match had ended 0-0 after 120 minutes, with Nigeria’s goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi making the trophy-winning save in the shoot-out from the boot of South Africa’s Linda Motlhalo.
Experienced midfielder Asisat Oshoala had earlier scuppered the chance to seal a victory for Nigeria in normal time after she missed a penalty.
The Super Falcons, who came to Ghana as defending champions, retain their dominance in this competition, winning the trophy for a ninth time in eleven editions.
It was a nervy start to the final for both sides as they tried to size each other out.
South Africa looked the more purposeful pushing forward, but the Nigerian defence dealt with the attacks comfortably.
Mamemlo Makhbane’s long-range strike for Banyana Banyana in the 12th minute had to be palmed wide by Nigeria’s keeper, as South Africa began to impose themselves on the game.
Nigeria got their momentum back after 20 minutes when Asisat Oshoala just missed the target from Ngozi Okobi’s corner, and an Okobi shot from just outside the 18-yard area had to be parried away minutes later by South Africa’s goalkeeper Kaylin Swart.
The first ten minutes of the second half belonged to South Africa but Nigeria held firm and went on to have the better chances.
In the 56th minute, Swart made a brave save diving at the feet of Rasheedat Ajibade, and Francisca Ordega was later brought down by Swart as she tried to get the ball.
Oshoala stepped up for the spot-kick – but her poor penalty went wide of the left-hand post.
Over the ninety minutes, Nigeria was the more skilful side which was cancelled out by South Africa’s organisation and determination.
In extra-time, the first chance fell to Oshoala whose shot across goal was well saved by Swart.
Kgatlana and Motlhalo both had shots for South Africa which went straight to the keeper.
How the shoot-out played out…
With no players able to break the deadlock, and tiredness hitting both sides, the drama of the penalty shoot-out followed.
It was a terrible start for Nigeria as Onome Ebi hit the post, with Noko Matlou then successfully scoring into the top corner to make it 1-0 to Banyana Banyana.
Ngozi Ebere then scored for Nigeria with Lebohang Ramalepe missing for South Africa.
Super Falcons skipper Rita Chikwelu made it 2-1 as Mpumi Nyandeni duly put her penalty away to level the score.
Chinwendu Ihezuo made it 3-2 to the holders, with Mamello Makhabane keeping the drama alive by scoring for South Africa.
Chinaza Love Uchendu put Nigeria 4-3 up – with Motlhalo suffering the heartbreak of seeing her shot saved by Oluehi as Nigeria celebrated their triumph.
Nigeria and South Africa will now prepare for next year’s World Cup in France where they will be joined by Cameroon who booked their place on Friday.
PHOTO CREDIT: Pulse.ng