Not often that both teams are playing away from home outside a major tournament. However, Scotland stepped up to the opportunity to help Nigeria on their way to Brazil by agreeing to play a friendly at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC. It resulted in a 2-2 draw.
Both sets of fans were in fine form and enjoying the party atmosphere with the Nigerian drums in tune with with Scotland’s bagpipes.
The slippery surface was not doing anybody any favours and could have resulted in mistimed tackles being more dangerous than usual. Nigeria, as the home side, was in its traditional all green strip while Scotland was in white. The early stages saw both sides testing each other out with Nigeria happy to show its speed of thought and movements and Scotland resisting with a well-organized defence.
The first chance fell to Scotland as Ikechi Anya latched on to a high cross about 10 years outside the box, beating the offside trap, and instantly controlled the ball before firing in a angled shot that beat Austine Ejide at the far post but missed. Nigeria’s Michael Uchebo tested Alan McGregor with a powerful shot which the the keeper held safely to his body.
On the 10-minute mark Scotland opened the scoring as a corner was not cleared well and fell to James Morrison on the edge of the box who fired in a firm effort which Charlie Mulgrew diverted it into the net. Nigeria trailed Scotland 1-0. Scotland kept up the pressure and won a series of corners with Shaun Maloney switching wings.
Grant Hanley and Gordon Greer knew they were going to have a busy night with the strength of Uchebo and Shola Amebi to deal with as they contested the high balls. At 20 minutes gone Scotland was more than holding their own.
If some slightly too strong dinks forward were underplayed, Scotland would have had more pressure on Ejide in the home goal. A free kick by Joseph Yobo at 22 minutes flew over the bar but it may have been one to get his range in. Nigeria looked to have a shoot on sight policy with a cross to Ejike Uzoenyi tempting him to beat his man and fire in a shot from the edge of the box, which flew over the bar.
The Scotland defenders were being kept on their toes and were quick to the tackle before Nigerian forwards could find their man with a pass. Maloney had a shot just before the half-hour which skimmed the bar. Scotland had the ball in the back of the net in the 32nd minute but Steven Naismith was judged to have fouled the keeper in the process of heading the ball.
McGregor in the Scotland goal was up to anything that could get past his defense and was comfortable when taking a shot on the volley from Uzoenyi who had latched on to cross from Shola Ameobi. Nigeria equalized when Uchebo's low shot to the right was deflected high and to the left, off Hanley, leaving McGregor unable to change direction in mid-air. The Nigerian fans certainly enjoyed that no matter how the ball ended in the net. Ameobi was keen to get on the scoresheet just before half time but his running shot flew past McGregor's right hand post.
The half time postmortem was oiled by beer available in the ground which made for a civilized change from the situation at Scottish grounds. A number of fans decided to finish off their beers and watch the game on the monitors in the concourse. As long as they could not see the pitch they could enjoy their drinks.
The second half started at a frantic pace with both sides keen to gain an early advantage. McGregor made use of every part of his body to prevent a shot from Ameobi. Ikeche Anya, who has a Nigerian dad, caused problems for the Nigerian defense with his darting runs and quick feet. He scurried forward once more and cut in from the left to let fly with a fierce shot which is headed wide by the imposing Yobo.
Scotland was the side that managed to get the goal when a cross on the touchline from Alan Hutton into a crowed box was deflected into his own goal by Azubuike Egwuekwe.
The ball was in the back of the Nigerian goal again in the 61st minute, only to be ruled offside, when Hutton raced down the right flank again before sending a beautiful, teasing ball across goal where Maloney was there to pop it in the net. The officials had spotted that the Wigan forward had given himself a yard start on the Nigeria defence.
As with many of such international friendlies, the flow of the second half was disrupted by a number of substitutions from both sides. Scotland had their tails up and substitutes George Boyd and Chris Martin unlocked the defense on the right before the latter fired in a shot which Ejide parried to his right along the endline.
Finally within sight of goal, Boyd crossed the ball for Anya at the back. However, his ambitious attempt at a volley spun off his boot for a goal kick. The subs continued to come on which provided fresh leg as to maintain the high pace of the game. Scotland fans were enjoying themselves with Gordon Strachan's name ringing round Craven Cottage as the game came to a conclusion.
Nigeria were keen to save their pride with an equalizer but Scotland's resolute defence was holding firm. Progress continues to be the name of the game and the game must have provide Strachan with a degree of pride despite the late equalizer by sub Uche Nwofor just before the fourth official indicated that there would be four minutes of extra time.
Nigeria: Ejide, Yobo (capt), Echiejile, Obi, Eqwuekwe, Odunlami, Uzoenyi, Amebi, Uchebo, Gabriel, Babatunde
Subs: Ambrose, Odemwingie, Moses, Oshaniwa, Oboabona, Igiebor, Agbim, Nwofor, Azeez, Oduamadi, Akep
Scotland: McGregor, Hutton, Robertson, Greer, Hanley, Morrison, Mulgrew, Brown (capt), Naismith, Malony, Anya.
Subs: Marshall, Whittaker, Burke, Martin, Bannan, Berra, Griffiths, Boyd, Bryson, Gilks, McCormack, Pawlett, Reynolds, Forsyth
Referee: L Probert