The Super Falcons of Nigeria completely outplayed their counterparts from Cape Verde on Thursday with an emphatic five-goal thriller in the first leg of their 2024 Women's Africa Cup of Nations final round qualifying fixture, played at the sparsely attended match at MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja.
Red-hot Uchenna Kanu scored a first-half brace for the Coach Madugu-tutored side, while substitute Esther Okoronkwo added another second-half brace, sweeping the nine-time African champions into a comfortable lead in the fixture and all but earning a place in the finals slated for Morocco in the summer of next year.
Gift Monday hit the bar from a 22-yard free-kick in the 4th minute before Kanu capitalized on a goalmouth melee following a corner kick to slot past goalkeeper Jacinta Rodrigues. Rodrigues did better two minutes later when she palmed a left-footed angled drive from captain Rasheedat Ajibade.
In the 14th minute, Kleydiana Borges came close with a shot that was charged down by Oluwatosin Demehin, and five minutes later, Toni Payne missed from close range, letting off the Cape Verdeans. However, Gift Monday made good from another goalmouth melee in the 25th minute, making it two for the hosts at the MKO Abiola National Stadium.
Petite midfielder Deborah Abiodun, whose turns, swerves, and sweet touches were a delight all evening, came close with a 25-yard volley on the half-hour mark. Still, Kanu made good again just before the break, making no mistake from a pass from Toni Payne on a swift counter-attack launched by Ajibade.
In the second half of the one-sided game, the Falcons again completely dominated, with Okoronkwo lifting the ball past Rodrigues in the 67th minute from a cross by Ajibade from the right. She then shot past the visiting goalkeeper from a Rofiat Imuran cross from the left with 13 minutes left.
Both teams will clash in the second leg in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde, on Tuesday, Dec. 5.