WINNIPEG, Manitoba – The Super Falcons had no comeback in them on Friday.
Kyah Simon scored twice to lift Australia to a 2-0 victory over Nigeria at Winnipeg Stadium in each team’s second match in Group D at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
Simon scored once in each half, exposing Nigeria’s defense, which was slow to react to a speedy Australia attack. Simon had a long road back from injury after tearing her ACL in October 2013. Australia coach Alen Stajcic has known Simon since she was 14 years old and has thrice seen her recover from major injury. The best is yet to come from Simon, Stajcic says.
“I still think she’s got more in the tank,” Stajcic says. “I thought she was good today; I think she can be even better.”
Nigeria entered the match having claimed an inspirational point against Sweden on Monday in the opener, twice coming from behind to draw Sweden, 3-3. Nigeria’s defense looked shaky on that day as well, but the Super Falcons’ attack managed to keep them in the game.
But the dangerous opportunities for Nigeria on Friday were few and far between. The Matildas dominated the midfield – as they did in Monday’s 3-1 loss to the United States – and won comfortably. Defensive midfielder Elis Kellond-Knight bottled up Nigeria’s attack in front of the Australia back-four, and Emily Van Egmond served as playmaker while Sam Kerr gave Nigeria fits down the wing all night.
“Their threats from the other day, I think we nullified them pretty well and showed a really good, disciplined defensive display,” Stajcic said of his team containing Nigeria.
Simon opened the scoring in the 29th minute, holding her run after Lisa De Vanna ran right up the center of Nigeria’s midfield and slotted a ball into Simon for the calm finish.
Kerr earned an assist for her hard work on the night in the 68th minute, when she sent a ball to the back post for a wide-open Simon to tap in.
But Kerr went down late in the match after being elbowed in the face by Nigerian substitute Ugo Njoku. Stajcic said Kerr will need X-rays later Friday night to determine whether or not her jaw is broken.
“Sam doesn’t go down easy and she looked in a fair bit of discomfort,” Stajcic said.
The referee missed the incident; Nigeria coach Edwin Okon said it was not intentional. Okon said he was unhappy with the referee’s decision to end the match earlier than the allotted four minutes.
The 3 points puts Australia in the mix in Group D, with one match left against Sweden on Tuesday. Nigeria faces the tough task of needing a result – likely a win – against the United States on Tuesday.
Okon says Tuesday’s match is a must-win, but there is no fear of the Americans, who are ranked No. 2 in the world.
“History doesn’t play football. The game is 11-v-11 and not history,” Okon said after Friday’s match.