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Aisha Buhari Cup: Gift lifts Super Falcons with brace against brave Mali

MONDAY Gift hit a second-half brace as the Super Falcons began the Aisha Buhari Cup with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Mali at the rebuilt Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan, Lagos on Wednesday.

The substitute scored twice in the final seven minutes of the tight encounter to give the hosts the win over the tough Malians.

Super Falcons head coach Randy Waldrum fielded his strongest possible line-up, with the experienced Asisat Oshoala, Francesca Ordega, Rita Chikwelu and Onome Ebi starting.

Young first-choice goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie was also involved from the start, along with the young forward Uchenna Kanu.

However, the African champions struggled in the first half, failing to create enough chances to trouble the Malian ladies.

With FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Confederation of African Football President Patrice Motsepe and Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu watching from the VIP box, the Falcons needed to step up their game. And they did in the second half.

Waldrum rang the changes after the break, bringing on Gift among other young players, and the Falcons became sharper and more dangerous.

After Barcelona striker Oshoala missed a glorious opportunity to open the scoring in the 70th minute from a one-on-one situation with the Mali goalkeeper, the Super Falcons struck.

But there was another big chance not taken in the 74th minute before the goal eventually arrived.

The skillful Kanu controlled a long ball with a perfect first touch and got herself in a position to score, but her finish was weak.

Oshoala then made amends for her miss with the assist in the 83rd minute, as her beautiful delivery from wide left was met with Gift’s looping header.

Gift kept on giving two minutes into added time, chipping the ball confidently over the Mali keeper after being found with a ball over the top.

The other four teams in the competition, South Africa, Ghana, Cameroon and Morocco, will play their first games on Thursday and Friday.

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Naija Times