Christine Sinclair taking in the atmosphere during a pre-game ceremony recognizing the gold-medal winning team, at Starlight Stadium on April 11. (Sheldon Mack/Pacific FC)

Canada ties with Nigeria in Vancouver Island soccer thriller

Canada’s women’s soccer team makes gold medal tour stop in Langford

The Olympic champions were in town on Monday, as Canada’s gold medal-winning women’s soccer team played in front of a full house at Starlight Stadium in Langford.

It was hard to know what got the largest cheer of the night, as a sell-out crowd watched a barnstormer ending 2-2.

The cheers as members of the Olympic team entered the field for a pre-game ceremony would rival even the rowdiest pickleball court in terms of decibel level, particularly when the legendary Christine Sinclair took to the field. Chants of “Canada!” were accompanied by stomping feet which may have even registered a couple of notches on the Richter scale.

But the bubble of the rapt crowd popped slightly when Nigeria scored after five minutes. Nigeria striker Ifeoma Onumonu scrambled home from close range after Canada failed to clear from a Nigerian free-kick.

Canada had most of the ball and looked bright during the first 45, but couldn’t break down the Nigerian defence. Canada’s best chance of the first half came just after 25 minutes, when a loose ball from a corner was slammed into the post by Janine Beckie, with Kadeisha Buchanan’s follow-up cleared off the line by Nigeria.

The away team again had to scramble again seconds later as Jordyn Huitema headed a cross across the face of the goal, but Nigerian captain Onome Ebi cleared heroically from under her own goal posts.

The second half started with an audible explosion and a goal for the ages as Sinclair lobbed the keeper from 40-yards out with an audacious shot after dispossessing Ebi, scoring her 189th goal for her country.

But the raucous crowd was quieted soon after, as Rasheedat Ajibade’s cross missed everyone in green and red, and trickled into Canada’s net to make the score 2-1.

Canada came unbearably close to levelling twice within seconds of each other minutes later. Sinclair hit the bar on 65 minutes with a shot from in the box. From the subsequent corner, defender Shelina Zadorsky fizzed a header against the bar, the third time Canada hit the woodwork during the game.

It didn’t look like Canada was going to be able to break the tough African team down until Zadorsky blew the metaphorical roof off in the 88th minute with a strong header from a Beckie cross into the top corner. Both teams had chances late to try and steal it, but the game ultimately ended in a tie.

This was the second game Canada has played against Nigeria as part of their Olympic gold medal tour, beating them 2-0 at BC Place on April 8. That game was the first time the team has played at home since 2017.

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Adriana Leon dribbles in the opposition box against Nigeria at Starlight Stadium on April 11. (Sheldon Mack/Pacific FC)

Kadeisha Buchanan dribbles the ball up the field during Canada's game against Nigeria, at Starlight Stadium on April 11. (Sheldon Mack/Pacific FC)

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