Heartbreak for Super Eagles

The Super Eagles had taken an early lead through Kala Uche’s free-kick, but a silly red card for Sani Keita gave the Greeks the opportunity to get back into the game.

With both sides desperately needing to take something from this game, neither side was willing to offer an inch as the match got off to a conservative start.

The Greeks stuck to their traditional defensive tactics, restricting Nigeria’s ventures forward, but at the same time limiting their own offensive opportunities to speculative shots like the one Kostas Katsouranis offered up from half-field.

Feeling the pressure from the Greek defense, Nigeria’s forward approach was continuously halted as the Super Eagles struggled to string more than a handful of passes in midfield.

The Africans’ fortunes changed drastically for the better just past the quarter-hour mark as a free-kick for Uche was misjudged by Greece ‘keeper Alexandros Tzorvas. The Panathinaikos shot-stopper anticipated a touch by Peter Odemwingie, but the Lokomotiv Moscow man let Uche’s ball run through the maze of bodies and it ended up in the back of the net.

Greece were now pressured to attack, but it seemed the Nigerians were looking content to sit back and defend their early lead. The likes of Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis couldn’t find a way past the Nigerian defense, but all that changed when Kaita was shown a red card for an unnecessary kick on Vasilis Torosidis.

The dismissal prompted Greece coach Otto Rehhagel to introduce a third forward in Giorgos Samaras.

While Vincent Enyeama continued to show his marvel by denying Gekas a clear opportunity from just a few yards off the goal-line, it seemed now after 16 years that it was just a matter of time before the Greeks scored their first World Cup goal.

Sure enough the goal came a minute before half-time as Dimitris Salpingidis found the back of the net off an unfortunate deflection off a Nigerian defender.

Enyeams continued to pull off some remarkable saves after the break, but then let a seemingly straight-forward long-range effort slip from his grasp, allowing Torosidis to tap in from close range.

Nigeria had an opportunity to level late on, but Chenedu Obasi missed an open goal after the Greek keeper could only parry Yakubu’s shot following a quick counter.