Wednesday 2 January 2013

Catalonia held by stubborn Nigeria

Catalonia were somewhat unlucky to draw 1-1 with Nigeria in Barcelona tonight. Over 27,000 saw the Catalans take an early lead via Sergio González and consequently dominate play, only to be pegged back by a fine counter-attacking strike from Bright Dike.
Tussle..the Catalans (dark blue) were made to fight

The Africans made the worst possible start when, in the 2nd minute, Godfrey Oboabona used his hand inside the box and the non-FIFA side were awarded a penalty. Catalonia’s most capped player, the now retired Sergio González, took the spot kick and consequently opened the scoring with his 2nd goal for the team. His novelty appearance was over 10 minutes later when Getafe striker Álvaro Vázquez replaced him. In the 13th minute Espanyol forward Sergio García went close after he was set up by Bojan Krkić. Unlike Bolivia in their heavy defeat to Basque County the Nigerians did not crumble, and in the 20th minute defender Marc Bartra had to be alert to deny Ideye Brown an equaliser. 12 minutes later and Krkić was unlucky not to score as the A.C. Milan front man steered a Joan Verdú through-ball narrowly wide as the non-FIFA side pressed. The chances continued to come and shortly after Verdú’s deep free-kick found Gerard Piqué at the far post, but his effort lacked power and went the wrong side of Chigozie Agbim's post. Nigeria reminded their hosts that they were still firmly in the game seconds before the interval when Portland Timbers striker Bright Dike hit the bar with a fine long-range effort. Kiko Casilla, starting after a late injury to Víctor Valdés, was beaten but the woodwork prevented an equaliser. 

Proud..the chanting never ceased
Catalonia made a raft of 2nd-half substitutions and 1 of them, Sergio Tejera, came close in the 54th minute when his near post shot was cleared off the line by Francis Benjamin. The Nigerians broke from the resulting corner and stunned the Cornellà-El Prat crowd when Dike turned Bartra inside out before firing a powerful shot beyond substitute goalkeeper Jordi Codina. The hosts went on the hunt for another goal and in the 72nd minute Jonathan Soriano shot over the bar from a dangerous Cristian Tello cross. Tejera headed wide shortly after as the Catalans became frustrated. Their best opportunity for a winner came with 1 minute to spare. Sergio Busquets released his Barcelona team-mate Tello with a splendid pass but the forward fired his shot a matter of inches wide of the post.

In the end Catalonia settled for a point and it was credit to the Africans for matching their hosts for much of the game. The Catalans will look to secure a winning return to international football next winter.

Match information – 

Score: Catalonia 1 – 1 Nigeria

Goals: Catalonia - Sergio González 3’ (pen.). Nigeria - Bright Dike 55'

Catalonia XI: Casilla [Codina 46’]; Bartra, Piqué [Amat 46’], Puyol [Montoya 44’], Capdevila [Alba 46’]; Sánchez [Busquets 46’], Xavi [Tejera 46’], Verdú [Tello 46’], González [Vázquez 12’ [[Roberto 46’]]]; García [Piti 46’], Krkić [Soriano 46’].


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