Nigeria’s Super Eagles today in Barcelona forced a star-studded Catalonia side to a 1-1 draw in a friendly match as they stepped up preparations for the African Cup of Nations.
Catalonia took the lead after three minutes from the penalty spot through 36-year-old Sergio Gonzalez after Fegor Ogude handled the ball inside his box.
However, US-based striker Bright Dike restored parity for Nigeria 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 kicked off with such top stars of Spanish soccer as Xavi, Carles Puyol, Gerrard Pique and Krkic Bojan.
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 again threatened 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 Nigeria defence was breached.
Bright Dike then fired Nigeria back into the game in the 55th minute when he smartly controlled a ball by Onazi before smashing home the equaliser all in one inspired moment.
As Nigeria came into the match with greater confidence, substitute Emmanuel Emenike was denied in the 81st minute only by the goalkeeper’s foot. 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.
The Nigeria squad will be joined by the remaining invitees in the next few days. Coach Stephen Keshi will drop about seven players before submitting his final team list for the Cup of Nations which begins in South Africa on January 19.