The Canadian women’s soccer team did enough to salvage a draw with Nigeria in a match coach Bev Priestman described as “frustrated.”
Shelina Zadorsky headed in a cross from Janine Beckie in the 88th minute, much to the delight of a sold 5,434 crowd on Monday night at Starlight Stadium in Langford, BC, as Canada drew 2-2 with visitors Nigeria in a friendly.
In another high points for Canada, captain Christine Sinclair added to her legend, increasing her goalscoring record with her 189th international goal.
But 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.
SEE l Sinclair scores his 189th international goal:
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.
“There were a lot of positives from this match, but it was frustrating,” said Canada coach Bev Priestman. “We had about 20 shots but couldn’t find the back of the net. These two games at SM are valuable training. We saw the real Nigeria tonight.”
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.
WATCH l Zadorsky nets a tying goal:
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 Premier League) has done a great job,” Priestman said 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.
Surprise visit from Trudeau
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 the 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 Canadian T-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 Labbé, now officially retired, could audition for the defense minister in her cabinet.
SEE l Janine Beckie on a celebratory tour of Canadian women’s football:
“Total troublemaker. Alcohol aficionado. Social media specialist. Friendly travel nerd.”