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Nigeria hold star-studded Catalonia to draw

Joan Verdu right of Catalonia battling for the ballThe Super Eagles of Nigeria drew 1-1 with Catalonia side that included seven Barcelona players on Wednesday at the Espanyol Stadium as the team began preparation for the 2013 Africa Nations Cup with a decent performance.

The hosts though started brightly with an early goal from Sergio Gonzalez through a 3rd minute penalty after Fengor Ogude handled the ball in the box and would have doubled the lead if Bojan Krkic had had his way in the Eagles area just minutes later. Nigeria scored the equaliser in the 55th minute through US-based Bright Dike.

After a slow start, Nigeria, with seven home-based players in the starting line up, grew in confidence as they settled back into the game, gradually creating chances and getting through with their passes.

Brown Ideye and Dike’s partnership upfront did not work perfectly as both players often ran into themselves.

The Catalonia side had their own form of disappointment when goal scorer Gonzalez was injured and replaced by Alvaro Vazquez in the 12th minute. Barcelona captain Carlos Puyol was also injured and replaced later in the game.With Barcelona players dominating the squad, it was not surprising that Xavi Hernandez, Puyol and Gerard Pique were in firm control. Their domination was overwhelming in the first half but they failed to convert the advantage into goals.

With eight attempts at goal to Nigeria’s one in the first half, the statistic changed in the second half as Nigeria challenged for possession and put pressure on the hosts defence. It paid off when Dike got a pass from Onazi Ogenyi and beat the defence line to fire pass goalkeeper Kiko Casilas for the equaliser.

Chances were coming for the Eagles as the Catalan side tired out but substitute Ike Uche twice failed to score.

Boja won the Most Valuable Player award but Nigeria was awarded a trophy for their good performance in the game.

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