African champions Nigeria are through to the second round of the TotalEnergies Women’s Africa Cup of Nations despite a disappointing 1-0 defeat to west African rivals Ghana in Accra on Sunday.
The showdown which highlighted the first round fixtures in the race to Morocco 2022 and rekindled three decades long rivalry between the West African nations ended, with the Nigerians edging the Ghanaians on a 2-1 aggregate win.
Last Wednesday, the Super Falcons had gained a clinical 2-0 first leg win over their eternal West African foes thanks to a first half brace from Linkopings striker Uchenna Kanu at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Lagos.
Four days later in Accra, the Black Queens were looking to revive their qualification dream by overturning their first leg two-goal deficit but could not bury their chances as the enterprising first half ended in a barren stalemate.
After the restart, the hosts continued brightly from where they left off in the first half and Princella Adubea broke the deadlock, firing home a fine cross from Portia Boakye two minutes into the second half.
Moments after the hour mark, Ghana suffered a major setback as they were reduced to ten women when captain Boakye was sent off after picking her second yellow card on the match for a poor challenge on Asisat Oshoala.
Minutes later, another dramatic scene ensued when Nigeria was also reduced to ten players as Glory Ogbonna was handed the marching order for a careless rough tackle on a Ghanaian.
With both teams left with 10 players each, the Black Queens gained more confidence to mount more pressure and came close through Adubea but her brilliant header was rebuffed by the woodwork.
At the death, the Ghanaians almost grabbed their second to level on aggregate from pouring attacks but the visitors nervously survived the series of onslaughts with their unrelenting last gasp brick wall defence.
Following their passage at the expense of Ghana, Randy Waldrum’s side will have to square up with Cote d’Ivoire or Niger in the second round coming up in February for a chance to compete at continent’s showpiece next year.
Despite securing a fourth win over Nigeria in 19 meetings, Ghana will miss the Women’s AFCON for the second time after Equatorial Guinea 2012 absence.
Same time, Mercy Tagoe-Quarcoo’s ladies will now have to wait until 2027 for a chance to push for a return to the Women’s World Cup, having last appeared at the global showpiece at China 2007.