At the jam-packed Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat, Morocco, fans welcomed Nigeria with hostility and interfered with their game by shining beaming laser lights directly into the eyes of the Falcons players.
The nine-time champions were reduced to 10 players in addition to having to deal with the intimidation of the 42,500 spectators after midfielder Halimat Ayinde was sent off in the 48th minute after a clumsy challenge on a Moroccan player.
After the Lionesses had briefly restored parity, Nigeria’s situation took a turn for the worse when forward Rasheedat Ajibade was given a red card by Mauritius referee Maria Rivet in the 70th minute, forcing Nigeria to play the remaining 20 minutes of regulation time and the extra period with just nine players.
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In a statement released by the NFF media team, Pinnick praised the Falcons for their valiant performance against all odds but also denounced the players’ being targeted by laser lights.
“Of course, we would have been happy to be in the final and chase a 10th title. But I am happy with the performance of the team and the way and manner they approached the game despite all sorts of setbacks and intimidation,” Pinnick said.
“To play 50 minutes of a game with only nine players is not an easy task. The Super Falcons gave their all and were truly fabulous. They had the ‘Nigeria spirit’ in them and showed a sense of patriotism, were dogged, and refused to give up. Penalties are forever a lottery, so it could have gone either way. I commend the team for the outing.
“Our girls did a massive job on a night they were not only depleted but challenged by laser lights trained on their eyes by the crowd. I am enamoured by their resilience and tenacity.”
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