Nanjala started on the bench for Starlets, but her introduction proved to be a masterstroke by head coach Beldine Odemba.
On Tuesday afternoon, Harambee Starlets made all Kenyans proud when they overturned a first leg deficit to beat four-time WAFCON finalists Cameroon 4-3 on penalties to proceed to the second round of the tournament qualifiers.
Starlets will play against Botswana over a two-legged tie between November and December later this year.
Sherly Andiba was the hero from the penalty spot, netting the final penalty to seal qualification to the next round, which left the crowd at the Nyayo National Stadium in a state of delirium.
There were more heroes in the match, including substitute Cynthia Shilwatso, who netted the equalizing goal with a freekick that the Cameroon 'keeper initially caught but fumbled comically into her own net.
Goalkeeper Annedy Kundu also deserves all the plaudits she is getting after her last-ditch one-on-one save to deny Cameroon kept the tie alive, but Violet Nanjala was arguably the unsung hero of the story.
Nanjala started on the bench for Starlets, but her introduction proved to be a masterstroke by Beldine Odemba, as she played a key part in creating the equalizing goal, and stretched Cameroon’s defence.
In the first half, Starlets struggled to break down Cameroon, failing to find a way to get through their compact midblock, which was forcing Mwanahalima Adam to spray the ball wide to wingers.
06:23 - 20.09.2023
After growing up in Kenya and dazzling with his football skills, the exciting 14-year-old attacking midfielder managed to earn a trial at English club Bristol City.
Essie Akida, who is usually very assured, was not effective and got marked out of the game when she played down the right flank, and even when she moved to the left, could not find her groove
On the right flank Tereza Engesha also struggled to run at Cameroon’s left back, and was constantly kicked out of the match.
Both star players just could not get going, and it got Beldine Odemba to decide to bring on players that could give her team width and drive at the defenders.
Odemba subbed on Elizabeth Wambui on the right and Violet Nanjala on the left wing, as she resorted to beating Cameroon by playing around them.
Wambui whipped in dangerous crosses when she came on, but they lacked a target forward to get on the end of them.
But it is Nanjala who was the hero of the story. The pacey winger was the player who won the foul for the equalizing free kick with her first touch of the game as seen below.
She received a pass from captain Ruth Ingosti, whose composure on the ball was just a joy to watch all game.
Just as she runs with the ball, she is fouled by the Cameroon player, which leads to the freekick that Shilwatso smashes into the back of the net.
Just three minutes after the goal, Nanjala asked the Camerood defence more questions with her pace, as she managed to turn over possession again after attacking the ball as Cameroon defender Bissi Abam.
Nanjala drove with the ball forward, before setting up Shilwatso who should have made it two, but she took too many touches which allowed the Cameroon defender to disrupt her rhythm as she attempted to hit the ball into the back of the net, forcing her to hit it wide.
Odemba’s risk in taking off Akida and Engesha was certainly rewarded, as Nanjala proved to be the difference maker for Starlets with her pace and direct running which opened up Cameroon’s defence.
The former Trans Nzoia Falcons lethal striker sealed a two-year deal with Club Municipal de Laayouyne of Morocco in November 2022 after impressing the club’s technical bench at the trials held in March 2021.
10:00 - 26.09.2023
Asike had not kicked a ball competitively in over a year due to contractual issues with his former Swedish club IF Karlstrad.