Unlucky Starlets fall to Ghana in Awcon opener
Harambee Starlets controversially lost 3-1 to Ghana in their Africa Women Cup of Nations (Awcon) debut in Limbe on Sunday as champions Nigeria took control of Group B with a 6-0 whitewash of Mali.
Esse Mbeyu Akida put Kenya ahead with a crisp finish in the first half before poor marking from a free-kick saw Samira Souleyman level the tie 1-1 less than 10 minutes after the break.
Cameroonian referee Jeanne Ekoumou sparked drama and huge protests from Starlets when she awarded Ghana a debatable penalty for the West African giants to take a 2-1 lead in the 71st minute through their skipper Elizabeth Addo.
Ekoumou adjudged the ball had been handled inside the box as she pointed to the spot though television replays suggested the incident happened just outside the area.
Confusion reigned amid furious complaints from the Kenyans when she first appeared to reverse the decision after consulting her assistants but to the horror of many in the stadium, she stuck to her initial call.
When Akida was bundled over inside the Ghanaian box minutes later, Ekoumou caused more furore when she initially pointed to the spot before recalling her decision after another lengthy debate to give the Black Queens a free kick.
Starlets keeper Samantha Akinyi then got away with letting an in-swinging cross trickle into her net but the ball was ruled to have curved out of play before her clanger.
There was heartbreak for the Starlets when Akinyi was once again caught out by a set piece delivery in the 91st as Ghana sealed the points when Portia Boakye claimed the third when her free kick from range ended at the back of the net.
Earlier, Arsenal Ladies forward Asisat Oshoala was the star of the show, scoring four goals and assisting one as reigning titleholders Nigeria started their title defense with a 6-0 thrashing of Mali.
The ice cool Super Falcons dominated the match from start to finish and were rewarded for their persistence.
A win for the Falcons against Ghana in their next match will guarantee them a spot in the semi finals.
After a fiery start in the opening 20 minutes where Nigeria created chance after chance, Francisca Ordega opened the scoring in the 21st minute with a calm finish into the far post from an Oshoala cut back.
Five minutes to the break, Oshoala scored her first, taking one touch off the keeper and calmly slotting home from an Ordega pass.
The defending champions though picked up in same gear in the second half and a minute from the restart, Uchechi Sunday registered her name on the score-sheet from the penalty spot after Oshoala was brought down.
Ten minutes later, the Nigerians made it 4-0 with Oshoala completing another calm finish after picking up a flicked ball from Wogu Chioma who had just spent two minutes in the pitch.
On the other end, Mali came close to a consolation after a swiftly executed counter attack in the 68th but Bintou Koite’s shot rolled across the face of goal. Immediately on the turn, Nigeria made it 5-0.
It was the North Londoner Oshoala again with another great finish into the top right corner and she finished the job 14 minutes from time with a low shot from a Chikwelu pass.
-Additional reporting by cafonline.com