Blackwood strike gives Reggae Girlz 1-0 win against NigeriaFriday, June 11, 2021
BY SHERDON COWAN
Jamaica's senior Reggae Girlz made a grand return to action yesterday clipping African champions Nigeria 1-0 in their opening contest of the US Soccer 2021 Women's National Team (WNT) Summer Series presented by AT&T 5G.
The Girlz, who are using the tournament as part of their preparation for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, dominated most of the encounter at the BBVA Stadium in Houston, and were justly rewarded with the all-important strike courtesy of Deneisha Blackwood, who notched her eighth goal in the 51st minute in her 27th appearance.
With the win, the 51st-ranked Reggae Girlz not only secured their first-ever win over an African nation, but also snapped a five-match unbeaten run for the African flag-bearers, ranked at 38th in the world.
Despite being out of action since the Olympic qualifiers in February last year, the Reggae Girlz fielding three debutantes — goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer, dreadlocked defender Vyan Sampson and midfielder Shania Hayes — looked nothing of the sort, as they defied the scorching Texas 93 degrees Fahrenheit temperature and spiritedly charged at Nigeria.
Though a bit tentative at the start, the Hubert Busby-coached Girlz signalled their intentions in the 15th minute when attacking midfielder Chinyelu Asher won possession and slipped a pass through to Jody Brown, who was closed down by the advancing Tochukwu Oluehi in goal for Nigeria.
Five minutes later, Asher, who expertly marshalled the midfield, picked out Blackwood on the left channel and the left back's intended cross lacked enough pace to get past Oluehi, who collected comfortably.
Nigeria had their first effort on goal in the 21st minute when Toni Payne headed a ball past Allyson Swaby to Obianujuwan Ikechukwu, but the striker's right-footed effort crashed into the side netting.
The Reggae Girlz could have opened the scoring in the 25th minute when a decent build-up orchestrated by Blackwood, ended with the fleet-footed Brown being brought down inside the area by Glory Ogbonna. However, Blackwood, who plies her trade in Texas at NWSL side Houston Dash, fired a tame effort from the 12-yard spot, which was swallowed up by Oluehi, diving to her right.
In the 37th minute, Asher again played provider for Brown, who elegantly turned her marker before playing a ball through for Konya Plummer, who failed to get the shot off in time and was denied by Oluehi.
At the other end, Nigeria went close to finding the opener against the run of play when a cross from the corner flag was deflected towards goal by Francisca Ordega and almost eluded Spencer, who did well to keep the loose ball out.
Jamaica inevitably broke the deadlock when another substitute Olufolasade Adamolekun's free kick evaded defenders and was picked up by Brown, who played a pass back for Blackwood to expertly fire home off the volley.
They came close to extending the lead in the 76th minute when Adamolekun's chipped pass picked out Havana Solaun, but the latter's stinging right-footed effort sailed over the crossbar.
Nigeria went ominously close to levelling the scoreline when substitute Michelle Alozie's powerful left-footed effort from just outside the 18-yard box beat the outstretched arms of a diving Spencer, but rocketed off the right upright.
With the football gods smiling down on them, the Girlz had a chance to a two-nil scoreline in time added, but Tiffany Cameron took one touch too many in one-on-one situation with Oluehi and the chance was squandered.
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