Chikwelu inspires Nigeria win
© Foto-net

Nigeria began their campaign at the FIFA Women's U-20 World Cup Chile 2008 in the best possible way, with a 3-2 win over New Zealand in Coquimbo. The winner cam from Rita Chikwelu late in stoppage time to seal victory for the African champions.

The match began at a slow pace, but the Africans came to dominate possession as the game progressed and Chikwelu dominated the middle of the park with her superior skill and distribution. Even so, after ten minutes the Oceania side had their first decent chance when a header from Rosie White slipped just wide. At the other end Chikwelu appeared unmarked in front of the New Zealand keeper, but her close range effort did not find the net.

New Zealand kept pumping in shots from long distance, but none of them caused any real danger. Nigeria proved to be the more efficient side. Some fine individual work from Chikwelu saw a rebounded ball fall to Sarah Michael, who made no mistake scoring from close range. They then doubled their lead after 36 minutes when Oganna Chuckwudi fired past the keeper from long distance.

But John Herdman's side came back into it. Shortly before half-time, Ria Percival scored with a magnificent header after a nice Hannah Wall cross. The goal boosted the New Zealanders' confidence. And after the break they grabbed a well-deserved equaliser to make it 2-2 in the 56th minute - Percival was again the scorer.

Neither side seemed content with a share of the spoils. Nigeria's Glory Iroka and New Zealand's substitute Annalie Longo missed promising chance from close in. But it was the best player on the pitch, Chikwelu, who scored the winner for Nigeria when she appeared unmarked in front of the New Zealand goal deep into injury time.