Nigeria made their way through to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup thanks to a winner four minutes from time by Loveth Ayila against Trinidad and Tobago in Marabella. Buoyed by a rousing home atmosphere and some inspirational goalkeeping from Linfah Jones, the locals appeared set to hang on for a crucial against-the-odds point until Ayila’s late intervention.
Today’s result, combined with a 3-2 opening win against 2008 champions Korea DPR, sees the Africans assured of their passage, and needing just a point from their final match against Chile to guarantee top spot in the group. The late goal means T&T must defeat the Koreans in the final group encounter to avoid elimination.
Nigeria started positively and Halimatu Ayinde went close to opening the scoring on five minutes, before then setting up Sarah Nnodim soon after only for the latter to miscue her effort. Nigeria continued in the same vein and Oluchi Ofoegbu rocked the crossbar with an effort from 25 metres as the Flamingoes inched closer to breaking the deadlock. They finally did so on 28 minutes with a long ball from deep played into the path of Francisca Ordega who coolly lobbed the advancing Jones with a header. Ayinde nearly doubled the advantage soon after, but her shot from near the penalty spot was blocked.
Nine minutes before the interval T&T, lifted by the relentless support of the home crowd's tuneful rhythm section, restored parity via the boot of Liana Hinds. The provider of the winner three days earlier against Chile profited from the good lead-up work of Jonelle Warrick, whose solo run on the right flank ended with a shot that could only be blocked by Amina Abu directly into the path of Hinds.
The second half began much the same way as the first with Ordega spurning a good opening for the Africans. T&T reacted with a powerful free-kick from distance only for Diarra Simmons’ effort to zip the wrong side of the post. Midway through the second stanza the Soca Princesses had a gilt-edged chance to take a shock lead with Jo Marie Lewis seeing her effort from 12 metres saved and Khadisha Debesette firing the rebound over the crossbar.
Just as T&T started dreaming of collecting a much-needed point came a dagger to the heart of the team and their ebullient supporters in the Manny Ramjohn Stadium. Winifred Eyebhoria crossed from the left flank over the head of Jones, allowing Ayila a simple tap-in at the back post. The Nigerians now face already-eliminated Chile in their final group match in Arima on Sunday. Trinidad and Tobago, for their part, must secure a win to progress at the expense of final-day opponents Korea DPR in Couva.