Hosts Morocco eliminated nine-time Africa Women Cup of Nations winners Nigeria to set up a final against South Africa on Saturday, defeating the Super Falcons 5-4 on penalty kicks after extra time following a 1-1 draw. Nigeria managed to open the scoring in the second half despite being reduced to ten women but Morocco leveled soon after before Nigeria had another player sent off, desperately holding on until being defeated in the penalty shootout. With Monday’s results there will be a first-time winner when Morocco plays South Africa this weekend.
Once again the home support turned out in droves to support the Moroccan side and created a feverish atmosphere at the Stade Prince Moulay Abdellah in Rabat. The teams mostly cancelled each other out in the first half but some nerves in the Moroccan defense created a couple of opportunities for Nigeria after the half hour mark. Poor passing led to a giveaway outside the hosts’ penalty area but Ngozi Okobi’s shot went wide as Atlas Lionesses goalkeeper Khadija Er-Rmichi desperately attempted to get back into position.
It took less than a minute for the action to heat up in the second half. A clumsy challenge from Nigeria’s Halimatu Ayinde resulted in her stomping on the heel of Rosella Ayane and the Video Assistant Referee review determined a straight red card was warranted for Ayinde, dropping Nigeria to ten players. Morocco had a couple of chances soon after but desperate defending from Nigeria kept the match scoreless until the Super Falcons silenced the home crowd in the 62nd minute when Rasheedat Ajibade’s cross was headed off the post by Ifeoma Onumonu and a desperate clearance attempt from Morocco went off defender Yasmine Mrabet and in for an own goal.
Only three minutes later Morocco sent the crowd back into high volume after a cross from Ayane was spilled by Nigeria keeper Chiamaka Nnadozie into the path of Sanaâ Mssoudy, who made no mistake putting away the rebound to equalize. A few minutes later another clumsy challenge resulted in Ajibade being sent off following another VAR review, resulting in Nigeria going down to nine women and the dismissal of their most dangerous attacking player.
Nigeria held on for dear life following Ajibade’s dismissal and goalkeeper Nnadozie turned in a heroic performance to keep Morocco from taking the lead despite the Atlas Lionesses setting up camp in the Nigerian half. Nnadozie’s saves and wasteful finishing from the hosts kept the match even at the end of ninety minutes and the trend continued in extra time with one dangerous moment for Nigeria seeing substitute Gift Monday strike her shot off the crossbar. Penalty kicks were needed in the end and Morocco stayed calm to convert all five of their spot kicks, including Ayane’s composed winner on their fifth kick, while Onumonu’s miss on Nigeria’s second attempt was all the hosts needed to advance.
Highlights from the match and the full penalty kick shootout are below.