China PR established a tight stranglehold on Group B this evening with a clinical 3-0 win over Nigeria that witnessed three of Russia 2006's best goals thus far.

Two of them came from Ma Xiaoxu, firing the Chinese captain to the summit of the tournament's scoring charts, and though Nigeria will consider the scoreline unduly harsh, they were ultimately undone by the Asian champions' superior quality and composure in the final third.

Emmanuel Tetteh Okonkwo , the Africans' coach, summed up his side's principal shortcoming: "What I liked about the game was that we played very well. What I didn't like about it is that we didn't score. Our decision-making was poor in front of goal."

By contrast,  Shang Ruihua reflected on the statistic of three shots on target and three goals by acknowledging: "We were a little lucky. But after seeing how quickly Nigeria played against Canada, we made it a priority to organise our defence well and play sometimes on the counter-attack, and my team showed great discipline."

Though his side had won their opening match against Finland with a degree of ease in the end, that didn't stop Shang from ringing the changes to his starting line-up, with You Jia, Rao Hui Fang and Wang Dongni all axed in favour of Lou Xiaoxu, Zhang Wei Shuang and Liu Xiaoyan.

It represented a bold series of changes, and when Nigeria dominated the early stages, nearly taking the lead through Akudo Iwuagwu, there were some who wondered whether Shang should have opted for continuity.

Within two minutes, however, the China coach was able to reflect with satisfaction on at least one inspired decision when, somewhat against the run of play, one of his promoted players - the Steel Rosebuds' other Xiaoxu, Lou - scored a quite brilliant opening goal.

The pass came from her namesake, Ma, and Lou - at an acute angle and with the ball bouncing awkwardly - smashed in as sweetly-struck a left-foot shot as we will see at Russia 2006, one that simply flew in off the underside of the crossbar (1-0, 8').

It was a superb strike and, for Nigeria - undoubtedly the better side early on - there was a bitter irony in the fact that it was scored in the same stadium, and at the same end, as  Cynthia Uwak's own wonder-strike  against Canada.

Yet, while that game against the Canadians saw Okonkwo's team twice come from behind to clinch all three points, a similar comeback rarely looked to be on the cards tonight against a Chinese outfit who grew in strength as the half wore on.

In 17 minutes, their lead was very nearly doubled when a well worked free-kick between Ma and Zhuo Gaoping led to the latter stinging Christy Bulus' fingertips with a fearsome left-foot drive, and soon after the Nigerian keeper was left without an earthly.

Perfect present for Zhu Wei
This time, the assist went to birthday girl Zhu Wei -18 years old today - whose incisive reverse pass was weighted perfectly for Ma to take the ball in her stride and flick a delicious shot into the far corner with the outside of her right boot (2-0, 31').

It was another terrific goal from the Chinese, yet it was to the Nigerians' credit that they refused to allow their heads to drop and began the second half by laying siege to Zhang Yanru's goal.
 
A series of half-chances were carved out during this period, the best of which saw captain Akudo Sabi smash the ball just over from 20 yards after a corner had been partially cleared. In 56 minutes, Faith Ikidi cut inside, but again her sights were just out, while Sabi - who was leading by example - also went close again with another powerful shot from distance.

Nevertheless, despite their best efforts and the noisy backing of their good-natured supporters,  Nigeria couldn't break through and were ultimately caught by a classic sucker-punch.

Ma had been quiet for much of the match, but in a moment that showcased the range of her attributes, she swivelled her marker, barged her way in from the right touchline past another Nigerian defender and curled a delightful left-foot shot just inside the far post (3-0, 69').

"I wasn't feeling well before this match," Ma said ominously at the post-match press conference. "But I managed to play well and I'm happy with my contribution and the final result."

Player of the Match: MA XIAOXU
"Tactically, she understands the game well, and her finishing today was really clinical. She also works back well defensively and, importantly, is always able to get back up the field quickly enough to recover her attacking position," Connie Selby (AUS),  FIFA Technical Study Group .