How Nigeria’s Falcons held Portugal to 3-3 draw in Houston

How Nigeria’s Falcons held Portugal to 3-3 draw in Houston
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Early this morning, Portugal and Nigeria played to a wild 3-3 draw in the second match of the 2021 WNT Summer Series as the Super Falcons battled from twice two goal deficits to equalize in the waning seconds.

The match featured Portugal scoring twice inside the first 34 minutes, Nigeria pulling a goal back just before halftime, Portugal once again going up by two goals early in the second half and then Nigeria fighting back for two more goals.

Nigeria came off a 1-0 loss to Jamaica on the first match day of the Summer Series on June 10 while Portugal was coming off a 1-0 defeat to the USA, scores that did not foreshadow the goal fest that was to come.

Nigeria is coached by American Randy Waldrum, the former head coach for the Houston Dash from 2014-2017, and his new position (he was hired last October) took him back to his old stomping grounds for his fourth international match as head coach of the Super Falcons.

Both teams had a quality chance early. In the 11th minute, Nigeria goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi made a great one-on-one stop near the top of the penalty box after a Portuguese attacker had busted through.

In the 16th minute, Super Falcons star striker Asisat Oshoala, fresh off winning the UEFA Women’s Champions League with Barcelona, but who did not arrive in Texas until yesterday, got behind the defense on the right side with her powerful strides before shooting wide left of the goal.

Portugal scored first but not without a little help from Nigeria. In the 22nd minute, defender Catarina Amado sprinted down the right side on an excellent overlapping run and bent a cross on the ground into the middle of the penalty area. As Oluehi came out of her net to try to cut off the service, which was hit with good pace, defender Chidinma Okeke darted in front of crashing Portugal forward Telma Encarnação and inadvertently knocked the ball into her own net while making a sliding attempt to clear the ball away.

In the 30th minute a well-constructed Portugal attack up the middle ended up with Encarnação toe-poking the ball past Oluehi and into the net as the Nigerian goalkeeper upended her, but the goal was waved away for offside. Replays show she was likely onside.

Portugal doubled its lead in the 34th minute off a free kick from just outside the penalty area on the right side. Midfielder Andreia Jacinto crossed to the far post where Portugal captain Carole Costa was left explicably wide open and she volleyed home with authority from a somewhat sharp angle inside the six-yard box.

Portugal could easily have made it 3-0 in the 42nd minute as Jessica Silva of Kansas City NWSL got free in the penalty area for a one-on-one chance. Oluehi came out to cut down the angle and Silva rounded her to the right but pushed the ball too far wide before shooting into the side netting outside the right post.

That turned out to be a key miss in the match as just before halftime, Nigeria pulled a goal back off a short corner kick from the right side. Former U.S. youth international Toni Payne took the pass and dribbled into the penalty before seeing her cross blocked. The ball bounced back out to the right and directly to midfielder Rita Chikwelu, who had taken the corner kick, and she smashed a first-time cross back into the middle. Forward Michelle Alozie, who plays for the Houston Dash reserves, was positioned directly in front of the net and did well to knock the ball home from the doorstep on the volley to cut the lead in half heading into the break.

Portugal wasted no time restoring its two-goal lead, but it came from a mistake in the back by halftime substitute defender Salome Zogg. Her poor clear attempt went straight to Jacinto who then played Encarnação behind the defense. She raced into the penalty area and then deftly scooped the ball over the onrushing Oluehi for a classy finish.

Four minutes later, Nigeria once again pulled to within one, this time on a Portugal own goal. Rasheedt Ajibade raced down the right side and crossed to the near post. Diana Gomes was trying to hold off the charging Oshoala but the ball hit her foot as she fell and plowed into her own net. Oluehi then denied Portugal another goal in the 61st, pushing away an almost point black shot for a corner kick.

Nigeria had a chance to tie in the 83rd minute when a curling shot struck the crossbar and it seemed that would be it for the Super Falcons, but six minutes of stoppage time was just enough to equalizer.

The goal came after Portugal forward Melissa Gomes made an ill-advised back pass in her own defensive third and it was picked off by forward Gift Monday. She then played a short pass to Payne who flew into the left side of box on the dribble and cut a short pass back to Ajibade who slid to knock the ball into the right corner, sparking a wild celebration from the Nigerians.

The final whistle blew seconds later.

After playing two matches each in the Summer Series, Portugal and Jamaica now head home while the USA and Nigeria will finish the Summer Series on June 16 in Austin, Texas in what will be the first-ever match at the brand new Q2 Stadium (8 p.m. CT / 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2). The game is expected to be a sell-out.

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