Daily Trust (Abuja)

3 January 2013

Nigeria Holds Star-Studded Catalonia in Friendly

The Super Eagles yesterday gave hope of better outing at the Africa Cup of Nations, as the Stephen Keshi-led side forced a star-studded Catalonia side to a 1-1 draw in one of their tune-up matches in preparation for the forthcoming African soccer show.

Hosts Catalonia took the lead after three minutes from the penalty spot through 36-year-old Sergio Gonzalez after Fengor Ogude handled the ball inside his box.

However, US-based striker Bright Dike levelled for the Super Eagles on 55 minutes with a well-taken effort after he was set up by Lazio youngster Ogenyi Onazi.

Coach Stephen Keshi started as many as seven players from the Nigeria Premier League, while the Catalans lined up the likes of Xavi, Carles Puyol, Gerrard Pique and Krkic Bojan from the first whistle.

As was expected, Catalonia enjoyed more of the ball especially in the first half in which the Eagles hardly troubled goalkeeper Kiko Casillas in the opposite goal.

Man of the match Bojan came close to doubling Catalonia's lead after 13 minutes but he was thwarted by all-action Azubuike Egwuekwe after he had gone past skipper and goalkeeper Chigozie Agbim.

Former Barcelona ace Bojan will then threaten the Nigerian goal on 33 minutes but he failed to make contact with a pass by Joan Verdi.

The Eagles appeared more composed after the interval but the attacking initiative remained with their hosts.

In the 53rd minute, Montoya was stopped from increasing the lead of the Catalonia only by some brave defending by Nigeria.

And a minute later, substitute Kenneth Omeruo headed off the goal line after the entire defence was beaten.

Bright Dike then fired Nigeria back into the game in the 55th minute when he smartly controlled a ball by Onazi before he smashed home the equaliser all in one inspired moment.

Substitute Emmanuel Emenike was denied by the goalkeeper's foot after 80 minutes.

In the dying minutes, Barcelona starlet Christian Tello failed to make a goal-scoring debut for Catalonia when he came face-to-face with goalkeeper Agbim but blasted his effort wide.

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