Australia 2-3 Nigeria: Hosts stunned in Brisbane as Nigeria top Group B

Another colossal crowd flooded through the turnstiles in Brisbane, as Australia looked to further their win against the Republic of Ireland with another three points against Nigeria. The African outfit were held to a goalless draw last time against Canada, after am impressive performance from Chiamaka Nnadozie.

AUS: Arnold; Catley, Kennedy, Hunt, Carpenter; Vine, Gorry, Cooney-Cross, Raso; Foord, van Egmond

NGA: Nnadozie; Plumptre, Demean, Ohale, Alozie; Ayinde, Ucheibe; Kanu, Payne, Ajibade; Onumonu

Australia should have taken the lead after thirty minutes when Hayley Raso arrived at the back post to slam home Steph Catley’s corner, but the recent Real Madrid signing was only able to drive her strike wide of the woodwork from close range.

It had been far from a comfortable first half for the Matildas though, with the Nigerian pressure increasing as half-time approached. Christy Ucheibe had the Super Falcons’ best chance of the half as she looked to pick up the pieces of a failed corner routine, but a deflection off Ashleigh Plumptre saw her effort placed just wide.

Yet as the match headed into five minutes of stoppage time, Emily van Egmond provided the much-needed opening goal for the hosts. A poor goal kick from Nnadozie was pounced on by Australia with Caitlin Foord surging down the left flank. Her delivery into the area was met beautifully by van Egmond – and the Matildas had their long-awaited opener.

But Nigeria responded perfectly – with just seconds remaining before the break. Rasheedat Ajibade’s curling strike towards the far post was met by Uchenna Kanu, who had done phenomenally well to beat Steph Catley and volley home the equaliser.

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A frenetic start to the second half saw both sides look test the opposition ‘keeper, though Katrina Gorry placed her effort over the woodwork and Michelle Alozie’s speculative effort was sent well wayward of the target.

Nigeria’s pressure told in the 65th minute, as the hosts looked to switch off following a corner. Mackenzie Arnold was merely able to push Rasheedat Ajibade’s header towards the far post, allowing Osinachi Ohale to head home and fire the African side into a shock lead! There were concerns for the goalscorer though, as she appeared to be in severe discomfort following a hefty boot to the stomach.

And less than ten minutes later, the story became somewhat more incredulous as the Super Falcons extended their lead. Stemming from Nnadozie’s goal kick, Asisat Oshoala was played through on goal – albeit forced out wider than she perhaps would have liked. That was no problem for the Barça star though, as Alanna Kennedy’s attempted clearance gave her a yard of space and she took full advantage, slotting home a superb strike from a tight angle.

Eleven minutes of stoppage time would provide Australia with plenty of time to rescue a late goal – and that’s precisely what they did. Alanna Kennedy rose highest from a corner, and with Mackenzie Arnold having come upfield, the defender was able to use her goalkeeper as somewhat of a springboard to pick out the back of the net. Finding one goal was something, but the two required to salvage a point proved to be impossible for Tony Gustavsson’s side.

Following Ireland’s loss to Canada, it’s Nigeria that sit at the top of Group B ahead of the final group stage fixtures – Australia’s progress will rely on them securing a win against Canada, and Ireland seizing at least a point against Nigeria.

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