Brown Ideye, Ogenyi Onazi' and Nosa Igiebor score as Nigeria beat Venezuela
Posted: 15 November 2012 Time: 08:01
Sandwiched between Brown Ideye's not so simple tap-in and Ogenyi Onazi's pile-driver with seconds left, Nosa Igiebor's audacious volley was the highlight of Nigeria's 3-1 win over Venezuela.
Not even a sloppy turnover which gifted Frank Feltscher what looked like a comeback goal could take away from Igiebor's eye-popping volley.
Shorn of top starting talent like Joseph Yobo, Vincent Enyeama, John Mikel Obi, Ike Uche, Victor Moses and Ahmed Musa, Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi looked to his home stars, returnee players and debutants to face a Venezuela side which finished fourth at the Copa America.
There were first-time starting shirts for Portland Timbers' Bright Dike, Sunshine Stars' Solomon Kwambe and Lazio's Ogenyi Onazi. Obafemi Martins was also shoved into the thick of battle on his return to the national team after over a year out.
Predictably, far from being a classic, this was ragged for extended spells, with the pockmarked pitch doing little to help, and Nigeria looked to be on the ropes early on.
Centre-back Azubuike Egwueke got the sloppy ball rolling when he gave away possession barely five minutes in. To his relief, Venezuela failed to inflict punishment.
Ideye almost exacted retribution. Played through by Igiebor, the Dinamo Kyiv striker found himself facing the goalkeeper, and so did his shot.
With right-back Solomon Kwambe revelling in the freedom of foraging upfront, Venezuela were finding joy loping balls over and in behind the hole at right-back.
Between Egwueke and felklow centre half Godfrey Oboabona, they contrived to escape danger time and again.
But the warning signs were always there. Egwueke left a trailing foot after being beaten clean. Arando headed in the freekick, but the goal was chalked off, correctly, for offside. And it was as much a relief to Keshi, as it must have been to the defenders that the half ended with no score.
That all changed four minutes into the second. The impressive Kwambe, marauding down the right channel, was fed by Igiebor. His driven cross, clean as a whistle, evaded Martins, but not Ideye.
His ecstatic celebrations came nowhere near Igiebor a few minutes later. Venzuela dallied with clearing a ball, it fell to the midfielder, who set it up with his chest and looped a quite sumptuous volley past the stranded Hernandez.
All the Venezuela keeper could do was look as the ball sailed above him and under the cross bar.
Despite being two goals up, Nigeria needed Austin Ejide to come up with big saves time and again. And he did.
But there was nothing even he could do for Fletscher's goal. Oboabona, trying to play the ball out of defence, got his pocket picked by Arango, who fed Feltscher with the Nigeria defence forced to play catch up. Ejide had no chance.
With Venezuela pushing for the equaliser, Ameobi, on as a sub for the last half hour, showed admirable strength to hold off his marker, and lay the ball for the arriving Onazi. The youngster's finish was as precise as it was composed.
Game, set and match. And Keshi will have to look at which of these players will make the cut as he fine-tunes his final squad.