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Super Eagles soar in six-goal thriller

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Nigeria came from behind to defeat Argentina 4-2 in a friendly in Russia. AFP

Super Eagles soar in six-goal thriller

Jack Ottman by Jack Ottman @jackottman - 0 5,248

Nigeria came from two goals behind to secure a memorable 4-2 victory over Argentina at the Krasnodar Stadium on Tuesday evening.

While Argentina, without talisman Messi, looked to be cruising during the first half after goals from Ever Banega and Sergio Aguero, Nigeria were suddenly sparked into life on the stroke of half-time, and a superb second half performance helped them secure the win with a brace from Alex Iwobi and goals from Kelechi Iheanacho and Brian Idowu.

Argentina started the game on top and were dictating play in the early stages as Paulo Dybala linked up well with Sergio Aguero, but his left-footed shot was blocked before it could trouble Daniel Akpeyi in the Nigeria goal.

The first real chance of the game fell to the ‘Albiceleste’ after 23 minutes, when Cristian Pavon sent a first-time volleyed cross in from the right, but Angel Di Maria missed his kick and Sergio Aguero was unable to convert.

A moment of madness from Akpeyi helped Argentina take the lead just four minutes later. He totally misjudged his positioning and picked the ball up outside the area as Aguero tried to close him down. The goalkeeper avoided a booking, but Ever Banega scored the resulting free-kick after some questionable positioning of the wall.

They almost had their second minutes later from a corner, but Nicolas Otamendi, who was in acres of space, couldn’t direct his near post header on target

After more sustained pressure, Jorge Sampaoli’s side doubled their lead after 36 minutes. An brilliant flowing move saw Pavon released down the right, before sending a pinpoint cross in towards Aguero, who finished from close range to make it 2-0.

The second goal seemed to spark Nigeria into life, and they tried to find a way back into the game.

On the stroke of half-time, Javier Mascherano hauled Alex Iwobi down on the edge of the area, and Kelechi Iheanacho curled his left-footed free-kick over the wall, and although Agustin Marchesin got a hand to the ball, he couldn’t keep it out.

The Super Eagles suddenly had a real energy about them, and in additional time, Marchesin denied Nigeria the equaliser when he got down well to keep out Wilfred Ndidi’s low effort.

The African nation made a number of changes at the break, including bringing on Francis Uzoho in place of Akpeyi in goal, but that didn’t stop them carrying on from where they left off, and after six minutes they had the equaliser.

Iheanacho was released down the left and cut the ball back for Iwobi, who finished low into the corner, leaving Marchesin with no chance.

At this stage Nigeria were rampant and just 90 seconds later they were in front. A crisp, quick move ended with Iheanacho finding Idowu, and the substitute curled the ball into the corner with his first touch.

The Nigerian’s third goal prompted a string of changes from Sampaoli and as such the rhythm of the game was disrupted somewhat.

Argentina were enjoying the majority of possession, but their opponents continued to look dangerous with plenty of pace to counter attack.

After 73 minutes Nigeria extended their lead and Iwobi got his second goal of the game. Ahmed Musa worked the ball into the Arsenal forward inside the area, and the Arsenal forward shimmied past Mascherano before calmly finishing past Marchesin.

The South American side were shell-shocked and while they continued to look for a way back into the game in the time remaining, Uzoho was only troubled once when he had to palm Dario Benedetto’s header over the bar.

Nigeria held on two secure what was only their second win over Argentina in memorable circumstances, and will take a lot of encouragement from the friendly as they look towards the tournament in Russia next summer.

Argentina made four changes before the game and were without their star player, but the collapse and poor defending throughout the second half may worry Sampaoli as he prepares his side for the World Cup.

Jack Ottman

Jack Ottman

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