A dramatic injury time goal from Cynthia Uwak sealed a thrilling 3-2 win for Nigeria over Canada that leaves the Africans perched alongside China at the top of Group B.

In a game that ebbed and flowed throughout, Umak rescued victory from the jaws of defeat with two goals in the last eight minutes when the North Americans had looked to be firmly on course to open their  Russia 2006  campaign with maximum points.

"It was a balanced game, highly technical, and a good game in lots of ways," Nigeria coach Emmanuel Tetteh Okonkwo admitted afterwards. "It was only in the dying minutes that everything changed and, obviously, I'm very happy with the outcome."

It had proved impossible to separate the sides during an intriguing and evenly-matched opening half which saw the pendulum swing between two teams clearly not lacking in respect for each other.

The tone for this often-physical tussle was set inside the opening minute when a hard, but perfectly-timed tackle from Blessing Akusobi - who was celebrating her 20th birthday - prevented Aysha Jemani bursting clean through on goal.

Much of the play thereafter was fought out in a congested midfield area, but with just under quarter-of-an-hour, Nigeria had the ball in the net when early substitute Chizoma Oparaocha raced in to side-foot home after Stephanie Labb could only parry clear Uwak's shot. 

What Oparaocha didn't know, however - but what the assistant referee rightly spotted - was that she had strayed offside, and the raising of the flag quickly curtailed her celebrations.

Nigeria continued to cause problems, though, and Labbe was again called into action midway through the half to deny Tawa Ishola with a superb save low to her right.

As it was, and somewhat against the run of play, Canada it was who took the lead. There was much to admire, too, in the quality of Taryne Boudreau's beautifully-weighted cross and the chest control of Kaylyn Kyle, who then profited from a fortuitous ricochet off the keeper before slotting gleefully into the unguarded net (0-1, 25').

It was a momentous goal for the 17-year-old and a landmark one too, with Kyle able to lay claim to having scored the 200th goal in the tournament's history.

However, within four minutes, Nigeria were level with the simplest of equalisers, one which saw Tawa Ishola race on to a straightforward ball over the top of the defence and loft a shot over the advancing Labbe (1-1, 29').

It was difficult to predict which way the match would go at this stage, but few would have expected that the second half turn out to be quite so dramatic after an opening 15-minute period that was, in truth, rather drab. 

Uwak the matchwinner
In fact, for the opening 25 minutes of the half, the closest either side had come to a goal was not through a moment of brilliance, but due to a horrendous and very nearly costly error by Nigeria's Christy Bulus. Fortunately, after spilling a seemingly routine cross and sending the ball trundling towards her own goal, the Nigerian keeper - Russia 2006's tallest player - raced back to her line to avert disaster, if only just.

Bulus' luck deserted her soon after, however, when she came for and failed to reach a speculative Sophie Schmidt free-kick, allowing Amanda Cicchini to sneak in and send a looping header arching into the empty net (1-2, 71').

In the end, Nigeria had Uwak to thank for sparing their blushes and setting up a memorable finale with a quite stunning equaliser eight minutes from time. Nothing appeared to be on when the 18-year-old striker chested down a cross-field pass, but she proceeded to unleash a ferocious right-foot drive into the far corner of the net, leaving Labbe without an chance (2-2, 82').

Such was the quality of the goal, in fact, that even Ian Bridge , Canada's crestfallen coach, couldn't help but enthuse about it afterwards. "My congratulations go to Nigeria for a terrific comeback," he said magnanimously. "We were beaten by a couple of fabulous goals, the first in particular, and even when you're on the losing side, it's difficult not to get excited when you see technique and skill like that."

Even Bulus earned some redemption towards the end of the match, tipping a goal-bound Cicchini chip on to the crossbar before Player of the Match Uwak sealed an unlikely victory in the most incredible of circumstances.

The fourth official had just lowered her board having signalled two minutes of injury time, in fact, when Nigeria's new goalscoring hero popped up at the back post to nod home Maureen Eke's pinpoint cross and spark scenes of joy on the Africans' bench (3-2, 90+1').

Player of the Match: CYNTHIA UWAK
"Both teams played good attacking football - you can see that in the scoreline - and there were players on both sides that I liked. But Uwak made the difference with two very important goals and her potential was very impressive," - Tina Theune-Meyer (GER),  FIFA Technical Study Group .