Shelina Zadorsky scored a late equalizer as the Canada women’s soccer team settled for a 2-2 draw with Nigeria on Monday.
Zadorsky headed in a Janine Beckie cross in the 88th minute, much to the delight of a boisterous, sold-out crowd of 5,434 at Starlight Stadium in Langford, BC
Canada captain Christine Sinclair added to her record tally with her 189th international goal.
Jessie Fleming was awarded Canada’s 2021 Female Footballer of the Year ahead of kick-off.
WATCH l Sinclair scores 189th international goal:
The Olympic champions fell behind early on when Ifeoma Onumonu played a cheeky heel at first goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan in the fifth minute. It came from a free kick that ricocheted around in front of Sheridan, who barely stood a chance.
Canada pressed immediately and carried much of the game throughout the game. The best early opportunity came from an Adriana Leon free-kick, which was deflected just over the bar in the 19th minute by Nigerian goalkeeper Cynthia Nnadozie’s fall.
Sinclair came on as a substitute at half-time and wasted little of the evening as the score was 1-1 in the 49th minute. Sinclair chipped a left footed foot from Nnadozie, who was intercepted wide of her line when her pass was engulfed by Sinclair after a misunderstanding between her defenders.
The tie only lasted four minutes, however, as Busayo Ajibade’s cross sailed over her intended mark, but substitute Canadian goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo played on the defense and watched helplessly as it sailed behind her.
The crowd, however, was unimpressed and persuaded the home side with constant applause, cheers, whistles and some old-fashioned drumming.
It was their second straight game against Nigeria in four nights when the friendly streak ended. Canada defeated the touring squad 0-2 on Friday at a much warmer BC Place in Vancouver.
WATCH l Zadorsky scores the winning goal:
The Canadian women ventured to BC as part of an anniversary tour, honoring the gold medal they won at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Canada, ranked sixth in the world, played in red jerseys with each player’s name and number emblazoned in gold in recognition of their medal. Nigeria, on the other hand, wore a less than traditional forest green and is ranked 39th in the world.
Scores of fans wore the red of Canada to Monday’s game and were treated to a fine island-style night of football.
“The island embraced us and the game and Pacific FC (of the Canadian Premier League) did a great job,” said Canada Women’s Head Coach Bev Priestman as he entered the game.
The two BC games were more than just friendly for Priestman as Canada begin preparations for the 2022 eight-nation CONCACAF Championship in Monterrey, Mexico from July 4-18. This tournament serves as a qualifying route for both the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Priestman brought 21 Canadian Olympic gold medalists to BC from Tokyo and added seven other recruits to the mix. The 21 were recognized before the game, with Sinclair receiving the biggest cheer.
Surprise visit from Trudeau
On Monday afternoon Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a surprise visit to the members of the Canada team before the game.
“I thought I’d let Justin do the pre-game speech tonight,” Priestman said as the PM walked onto the field, where team members were doing some afternoon stretches.
“Congratulations,” said Trudeau, adding that the team won the hearts of Canadians and young girls in particular. He said the team’s accomplishments work wonders when it comes to getting girls into sports in their teenage years.
“It’s good to see the men’s team finally starting to catch up because you’re the leaders,” Trudeau said, referring to the Canada men’s team, which recently qualified for the World Cup.
“Thank you for everything you do,” added Trudeau, who was presented with a red Canada t-shirt with Trudeau printed on the back and the number 22.
The Prime Minister congratulated Sinclair – who also hit the bar in the 66th minute – on being “football’s top international scorer”. He joked that star goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, who has now officially retired, could have auditioned for defense secretary in his cabinet.
The game was played on the artificial turf home of Pacific FC, champions of the 2021 CPL.
WATCH l Janine Beckie on Canada Women’s Soccer Celebration Tour: