Nigeria hold Italy to draw in friendly

AFRICAN FLAIR::The move that led to Nigeria’s brilliant second goal by Shola Ameobi underlined the African champions’ fondness for producing magical touches

Reuters, LONDON

Wed, Nov 20, 2013 - Page 19

Italy and Nigeria played out a thrilling 2-2 draw which included a goal-of-the-season contender from Shola Ameobi in an entertaining friendly at Fulham’s Craven Cottage on Monday.

Italy dominated the game, but the African champions, who joined their opponents at next year’s World Cup on Saturday, produced a few magical touches and defended superbly as the Italians pounded their goal in search of a late winner.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli made eight changes from the team who drew 1-1 with Germany in a friendly on Friday and his side dominated the early stages, after going ahead in the 12th minute when Mario Balotelli set up Giuseppe Rossi.

Rossi, shrugging off a bout of tonsillitis, showed great composure to shift the ball from one foot to the other before scoring.

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi made seven changes from the team who sealed their World Cup place by beating Ethiopia.

The African side gradually played their way back into the game, Victor Moses troubling the Italian defense with bursts down both wings.

Nigeria equalized in the 35th minute when a deep raking cross from Ameobi was powerfully headed past goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu by Bright Dike.

That meant that the first two goals were scored by two players born one day apart in the US on Feb. 1 and Feb. 2, 1987. Rossi was born in New Jersey to Italian parents and Dike in Oklahoma to Nigerian parents.

There was nothing strange about the third goal though — just sheer brilliance.

Moses fed Francis Benjamin wide on the left with a perfect pass and his cross was volleyed in by the leaping Ameobi, who slammed the ball into the net with the outside of his right foot.

Italy almost equalized when Balotelli lobbed the defense with an overhead kick, ran on to trap the ball and teed it up before volleying straight at goalkeeper Austine Ejide.

Italy drew level just after halftime when Emanuele Giaccherini put the final touch to a fine move involving Rossi and Antonio Candreva, powerfully driving the ball past Ejide.

The introduction of the experienced Andrea Pirlo into midfield after 53 minutes tipped the balance Italy’s way and they went close to a winner as substitutes Marco Parolo and Alessandro Diamanti hit the woodwork, and Diamanti crashed a free-kick against the bar.

Italy have now only won one of their last 12 friendlies and drawn the past four.



Striker Sergio Aguero scored twice to give Argentina a 2-0 win over fellow World Cup finalists Bosnia in a friendly at the Busch baseball stadium in St Louis, Missouri, on Monday.

Aguero, wearing the No. 10 shirt in absence of injured captain Lionel Messi, could have registered a hat-trick, but blasted the ball over the bar in the 75th minute after goalkeeper Asmir Begovic had parried a shot from his strike partner Rodrigo Palacio.

Argentina, who played out a goalless draw with Ecuador in New Jersey on Friday, ended their US tour unbeaten as coach Alejandro Sabella tried two experimental lineups and tested defensive variations.

The Bosnians, whose appearance in next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil will be their first, might have taken an early lead, but shots from strikers Vedad Ibisevic and Edin Dzeko went narrowly wide of Sergio Romero’s posts.

Argentina, though, enjoyed more possession with busy midfielder Angel Di Maria creating a string of chances.

Di Maria’s headed pass into the box led to the first goal, with Begovic fouling Palacio as he went for the ball and Aguero following through to steer it into the net between two defenders five minutes before halftime.

“It was important to finish the year well, playing like this, and that we didn’t concede goals in either match,” Aguero told broadcasters TyC Sports.

The striker, lucky that the referee missed his kick in retaliation for a dangerous challenge in the 56th minute, found the net 10 minutes later with a left-footed volley from the left after a fine pass from deep in midfield by Maxi Rodriguez.

Substitute Erik Lamela, on for Di Maria, had two good chances in the dying minutes while Dzeko, kept in check for most of the match, had a stinging shot beaten away by Romero.