Sinclair, Zadorsky score as Canada salvage 2-2 tie with Nigeria

Langford, SM-

Shelina Zadorsky scored a late tie as the Canadian women’s soccer team drew 2-2 against Nigeria on Monday.

Zadorsky headed in a cross from Janine Beckie in the 88th minute, which was met by a sold-out 5,434 crowd at Starlight Stadium.

Canada captain Christine Sinclair added to her goalscoring record with her 189th international goal.

The Olympic champions fell behind when Ifeoma Onumonu played a mischievous backheel past early goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan in the fifth minute. It came from a free-kick that bounced in front of Sheridan, who had few chances.

Canada immediately pressed and did a lot of play throughout the game. Her best early chance came from Adriana Leon’s free kick, which was deflected just over the bar by Nigerian goalkeeper Cynthia Nnadozie in the 19th minute.

Beckie then fired a left-footed bid off the post midway through and Kadeisha Buchanan’s follow-up was thwarted by a number of Nigerian defenders from the ensuing scramble.

Sinclair was put into the game in the first half and wasted little time in the evening scoring 1-1 in the 49th minute. Sinclair struck a left-footed shot from Nnadozie, who was caught far from his line when his cross was swallowed by Sinclair following a miscommunication between his defenders.

The match lasted just four minutes when Busayo Ajibade’s cross crossed his intended target, but Canadian substitute goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo played for a deflection and watched helplessly as it drifted behind him.

The crowd was undeterred, however, persuading the home team with clapping, cheers, whistles and some old fashioned drumming.

It was the second meeting in a row in the span of four nights against Nigeria as the friendly draw ended. Canada beat the touring team 2-0 on Friday at the much warmer BC Place in Vancouver.

The Canadian women ventured to SM as part of a celebratory tour, recognizing the gold medal they claimed at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

Canada, ranked sixth in the world, played in a red jersey with each player’s name and number emblazoned in gold in recognition of his medal. Nigeria, meanwhile, wears traditional jungle green attire and sits 39th in the world.

Many fans wore Canadian red for Monday’s game and were treated to a lovely evening in footy Island style.

“The island has embraced us and the game, and Pacific FC (of the Canadian Premiership) has done a great job,” said Canadian women’s team head coach Bev Priestman entering the game.

The two SM matches were more than just friendlies for the Priestman as Canada began preparations for the eight-nation 2022 CONCACAF Championship from July 4-18 in Monterrey, Mexico. The tournament serves as a qualifying route for the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Priestman brought Canada’s 21-player Olympic champions from Tokyo to BC and added an additional seven signings to the mix. The 21 recognized pre-match with Sinclair received the biggest cheers.

On Monday afternoon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a surprise visit to members of the Canadian team ahead of the game.

“I thought I’d let Justin deliver the pre-match speech tonight,” Priestman said as the prime minister walked onto the pitch where team members did some afternoon stretching exercises.

“Congratulations,” Trudeau said, adding that the team had captured the hearts of Canadians and especially young girls. She said the team’s achievements did wonders to keep the girls playing the sport in their teens.

“It’s good to see the men’s team finally starting to catch up, because you guys are the leaders,” Trudeau said, referring to the Canadian men’s team, which recently qualified for the World Cup.

“Thank you so much for everything you guys do,” added Trudeau, who was given a red Canada shirt with Trudeau on the back and number 22.

The prime minister congratulated Sinclair – who also hit the crossbar in the 66th minute – for being “football’s top international goalscorer.” He joked that star goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, now officially retired, could audition for defense minister in her cabinet.

CORNER KICKS: Jessie Fleming accepts his 2021 Canadian Footballer of the Year award before kickoff the match is played on artificial turf at home to Pacific FC, the 2021 CPL champions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 11, 2022.

Laura Davis

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