Banyana Banyana’s dream of winning their first continental title faded into thin air as Thomas Dennerby’s side again won via a penalty shootout
Tochukwu Oluehi was the heroine as Nigeria claimed the African Women Cup of Nations for a record ninth time after defeating South Africa 4-3 on penalties following a tightly contested 120-minute draw in Accra, Ghana.
The Super Falcons goalkeeper was impressive throughout the encounter, before saving the decisive penalty to help her team beat Banyana Banyana.
Onome Ebi had missed Nigeria’s first penalty of the shootout before Oluehi provided a stunning save to deny Linda Motlhalo, thus, securing victory for Nigeria.
Thomas Dennerby made a single change to his team, bringing on teenager Rasheedat Ajibade in place of Desire Oparanozie while Thembi Kgatlana continued to lead the line for Desiree Ellis’ side.
Nigeria controlled proceedings for the better part of the game while the South Africans were organised and, as such, successfully contained their opponents throughout.
Ellis’ approach saw her side try to exploit the defensive partnership of Ebi and Osinachi Ohale with the speed of Kgatlana.
The Super Falcons started on the front foot and in the third minute, Oshoala, after picking the pocket of a South African midfielder, shot tamely at Kaylin Swart, who provided an unassured save.
Her opposite number, Oluehi, was first called to action in the 13th minute, parrying a dipping long-range free-kick from Mamello Makhabane.
Okobi then showed great skill to pull away from Leandra Smeda, but the quality of her finish was in stark distinct.
The attacking midfielder had a better attempt at Banyana Banyana’s goal after some good work from fleet-footed winger Francesca Ordega, but Swart was equal to the task.
But for a bad first touch, Ajibade would have put the Super Falcons ahead before the half-time break after Swart’s clearance off an Okobi outswinging attempt fell for her.
Three minutes after the restart, livewire Ordega – benefitting off Ajibade’s tame shot – again caused panic for the South African defence but her strike was whiskers away from the target.
Nigeria fluffed their best chance to get a much-deserved lead with Oshoala firing her penalty wide after Swart had brought down Ordega in the box as the game proceeded into extra time.
Oluehi made light work of substitute Nompumelelo Nyandeni’s left-footed shot in the first real opening of extra time.
And Swart again denied Oshoala a goal, pushing the ball to safety before Kgatlana almost secured the trophy for South Africa after waltzing through Nigeria’s defence but shot straight at Oluehi.
The goalkeeper showed her quality calmly saving fierce efforts from Motlhalo and Makhabane to keep the Super Falcons in the game as Banyana’s search for a first Awcon title only had to stretch to the penalty shootouts.
Oluehi only had to wait until the last spot-kick, providing a stunning diving save to Motlhalo’s shot to win a record ninth continental trophy for Nigeria.