By Harry Awurumibe, Editor Abuja Bureau
Expectedly, Nigeria began her campaign in the Four-nation invitational tournament tagged Summer Series in the United States (US) on losing note as Deneisha Blackwood’s second half strike gave Jamaica a lone goal victory over the African champions at BBVA Stadium in Houston on Thursday.
In the second game of the day at the same venue, host country, US beat Portugal 1-0 courtesy of 76th minute goal scored by Samantha Mewis.
Blackwood’s 51st min. goal was enough to condemn Super Falcons to their first defeat under the new Head Coach Randy Waldrum, an American soccer tactician who took charge of the team in February’s Turkey invitational tournament. He won three matches on the bounce.
Nigeria’s gaffer who did not have the best of preparations prior to the match against Jamaica was forced to field inexperienced players most of them playing for Nigeria for the first time following the unavailability of key players due to injuries and logistics reasons especially Asisat Oshoala of FC Barcelona feminine forward.
Waldrum started four players playing their fisrt international game in Oluwatosin Dimehin and Vivian Ikechukwu (home-based), Onyinyechi Zogg and Roosa Ariyo (foreign-born).
Although they tried to give a good account of themselves, it was clear they will cave in under pressure and it was not long before the stage got the better of the debutantes who were replaced at some point.
With the Nigerian bench not better either, Waldrum threw in more green-horns in the match as he capped two more foreign-born players, Nicole Payne and Ifeoma Onumonu and home-based Akudo Esther Ogbonna.
However, it was not all gloom on the night as debutante Vivian Ikechukwu came close to scoring a goal in the third minute as she forced goalkeeper, Rebecca Spencer to an early save.
Also, when Glory Ogbonna gifted a penalty to Jamaica inside the box but goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi stepped up to deny Blackwood from scoring the opening goal from the spot in the 26th minute of the match.
The impressive performance of the team continue to manifest especially in the closing minutes when the Falcons raided the goalmouth of the Raggae Girlz who protected their lone goal till the final whistle.
Again, the maiden appearance of Nicole alongside her sister Toni also saw the Payne sisters become the second family in history to represent Super Falcons .The first female siblings to adorn Nigerian colour in football are ex- internationals, Eberechi and Ugochi Oparaku who were defender and goalkeeper respectively.
Meanwhile, in the second game of the Summer Series, US started the campaign in a brighter note as a Samantha (Sam) Mewis 76th minute goal gave the home team a deserved 1-0 victory over Portugal.
Defeated Nigeria and Portugal have another opportunity to redeem themselves when both meet in the second game of the tournament at the same venue on Sunday, June 14. US will take on Jamaica the same day and same place.