Nigeria began their title defence of the Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) in solid fashion by smashing six goals past Mali at the Stade Municipal de Limbe on Sunday.
Asisat Oshoala scored four while Francisca Ordega and Uchechi Sunday got among the goals.
Florence Omagbemi, head coach of the African champions, named a startlist without Desire Oparanozie with Sunday preferred upfront alongside Arsenal Ladies striker Oshoala. Faith Ikidi, Onome Ebi, Ordega, Halimatu Ayinde and Captain Rita Chikwelu completed Nigeria’s list of overseas-based players.
Mali head coach Oumar Guindo listed three of the four France-based players in his 11 for this game. Dejnaba Baradji, Sebe Coulibaly and Aissatou Diadhiou were the France-based trio that started.
Seven minutes into the game, Uchechi Sunday’s knock down played Oshoala through on goal but the Arsenal Ladies forward applied a heavy first touch and allowed the ball to bubble out of play to the relief of Mali stopper Samake Goundo.
Mali had their first opportunity to test the Nigerian back-four when they broke from the right channel. But Sebe Coulibaly’s cross was too easy a catch for Alaba Jonathan.
On 15 minutes, Oshoala’s cutback into Mali’s box was met by Washington Spirit forward Ordega, whose effort was blocked before FC Minsk midfielder Ayinde dragged her attempt off target.
Five minutes later, Sunday rose highest to plant a headed attempt at goal straight into the hands of Mali goalkeeper Goundo.
However, Goundo could not stop Ordega from passing the ball into the bottom corner from a low cross to give Nigeria a deserved one-nil lead.
Halfway into the first 45 minutes, Ayinde waltzed through the Mali defence and could only watch as her delightful chip grazed the woodwork and went out of play.
Mali’s only threat in the game came from one of their France-based stars, Baradji, though the Nigerian backline anchored by Onome Ebi kept her in check.
Five minutes before the break, Oshoala doubled Nigeria’s lead. The Malians made a meal of a clearance and Osarenoma Igbinovia picked out Oshoala who skipped past the Mali custodian to score.
Sunday and Oshoala had opportunities to make it 3-0 to Nigeria but Aminata Sacko and Goundo blocked the attempts respectively.
In added time of the first half, the Malians defended a goalmouth scramble with Nigerian trio of Osinachi Ohale, Sunday and Ordega putting pressure on their opponents.
Less than two minutes into the restart, a poor challenge by Sacko on Igbinovia gifted Nigeria a spot kick and South Korea-based striker Sunday calmly side-footed the ball past a despairing Mali goalkeeper for the third goal to the champions.
On the hour mark, Oshoala raced through Mali’s defence and hit the ball first time. Her attempt was always rising.
Nigeria went four goals up on 64 minutes through Oshoala. A through-ball from the back freed up the Arsenal Ladies forward, who beat her Malian marker, Oumou Tangara, for pace before rounding Goundo and then calmly picked her spot to score her second of the afternoon.
Four minutes later, the Arsenal Ladies striker’s pace was again too much to cope with by the Malian defence and she effortlessly slotted in Nigeria’s fifth of the game and her hat-trick.
Fifteen minutes to time, Ayinde let fly from outside of Mali’s goal area and her attempt only flew inches over the post.
The contest turned out to be an Oshoala show as she scored her fourth of the game and Nigeria’s sixth from a well-weighted pass by Chikwelu on 79 minutes.
With the contest surely won by Nigeria, Guindo’s team can only look forward to their next game with Kenya on Wednesday while the Super Falcons face Ghana in a clash of heavyweights on the same day.