Canada’s women’s soccer team celebrated their Olympic title with a 2-0 win over Nigeria in a friendly on Friday.
Jessie Flemming opened the scoring in the 51st minute and Vanessa Gilles strengthened the home team’s lead with a goal in the 72nd minute.
Veteran Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé has come through the final 45 minutes of her soccer career perfectly. She was replaced just after half-time by Kailen Sheridan, who saved the goal.
Canada played in red jerseys with each player’s name and number emblazoned in gold on the back, a nod to the medal the team won at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
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The Canadians are currently sixth in the world rankings and Nigeria is 39th.
The two sides meet again on Monday in Langford, BC for the second game of the BC leg of the Celebration Tour
Canada took a 2-0 lead in the 72nd minute from a Janine Beckie corner.
Sheridan made her biggest stop of the night in the 68th minute when she dived to send a blast from Oyedupe Payne just wide of the post.
Deanne Rose set up the first goal of the game, sending the ball to Flemming at the top of the six-yard box in the 51st minute. Flemming fired from a tight angle high over goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi’s shoulder.
Oluehi was replaced by Nnadozie in the 70th minute after apparently suffering an injury.
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Labbé, who is retiring, gets a standing ovation
The second half started with an emotional moment when Sheridan replaced Labbé in goal.
The senior goalkeeper greeted the standing, cheering crowd – including quite a chunk of her friends and family – before hugging her replacement on the sidelines.
Tears streamed down Labbé’s face as she hugged head coach Bev Priestman, the rest of the Canada coaching staff and her teammates on the sidelines.
The 35-year-old native of Stony Plain, Alta. announced her retirement in January and has already played her last game for her professional team, Paris-Saint Germain.
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The home side controlled most of the action in the first half but Labbé was brought on in the 28th minute.
Rasheedat Ajibade broke through the Canadian defense and sent a rocket from the top of the box but Labbé dived to save a fingertip and hold the 0-0.
Canada had an excellent chance in the 19th minute when Beckie sent a cross into Sinclair’s box. The captain went for a header and shot into Oluehi’s midsection from just outside the six-yard box.
Sinclair honored in pre-game ceremony
Sinclair was honored in a pre-game ceremony for breaking the international goal record when she scored her 185th goal in January 2019.
At the much-delayed celebration, video of some of Sinclair’s highlights was shown on the big screen before the 38-year-old from Burnaby, BC, and her two nieces took the field, where they received a commemorative print and a standing ovation from the hometown crowd .
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Great cheers filled the stadium as the Canadians took the field before kick-off. The players with gold medals around their necks clapped and waved to the cheering crowd before being presented with the Olympic championship rings.
On Friday, Canada and Nigeria women’s teams met for the first time since April 2019 when Canada won 2-1 in a friendly in Spain.
Canada played its first game at BC Place since November 2017 when the women’s team battled the Americans to a 1-1 draw.
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