Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum has blamed the team’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations semi-final defeat to hosts Morocco on the two red cards the team received on Monday. The Atlas Lionesses defeated the Super Falcons 5-4 on penalties following a 1-1 deadlock in regulation and extra time. The Super Falcons entered the match at the Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat hoping to advance and win the championship again. The Super Falcons were in trouble after dominating the hosts, particularly in the first half’s early going, when Halimatu Ayinde received her marching orders in the 48th minute. However, the red card did not dampen their spirit as they took the lead in the 62nd minute when defender Yasmin Katie Mrabet put the ball into her own net after a powerful effort from Rasheedat Ajibade.
Sanaa Mssoudy’s goal for Morocco restored parity eight minutes later, and Nigeria’s reduction to nine players after Ajibade’s dismissal in the 70th minute caused them greater trouble. Asked to comment about officiating after the game, the American coach told reporters: “We [coaches] can’t comment on officiating, we will get into trouble,” with a smile on his face. “We were in control of the game until after the first red card, then the second red card; I will put it this way.”
While emphasizing that his team had fought valiantly despite Morocco having the numerical advantage in the second half, Waldrum withheld plaudits for his players. “I am proud of the girls tonight [Monday]. We wanted to win the game, not just the World Cup ticket,” Waldrum continued. “Our substitutions were spot on and we can’t ask for more from the players, they gave their best.” After taking the game to penalties, Morocco custodian Khadujah Er-Rmichi turned was heroine after she saved striker Ifeoma Onumonu’s effort to send Atlas Lionesses to their first-ever final. Nigeria will now fight for the bronze medal when they take on Zambia in the third-place playoff while Morocco will come up against South Africa’s Banyana Banyana in the final.