Nigeria Rallies to Stun Spain With Late Goal
Saturday, June 13, 1998; 1:06 p.m. EDT
Goals by Garba Lawal and Sunday Oliseh 5 minutes apart late in the game gave Nigeria a 3-2 win.
"This win was for 150 million Nigerians,'' said Oliseh, who scored the winner from 30 yards with 12 minutes left.
Wearing black arm bands on their green jerseys to mark of the death of their country's ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha, the Nigerians looked for much of the game like the team that lost its last three World Cup tune-ups.
But down 2-1 after a spectacular goal by Raul, the 1996 Olympic champions fought back.
"We showed Nigeria is not dead,'' Oliseh said. "Our problem now is to keep our heads.''
Lawal tied it 2-2 in the 73rd minute, taking a pass on the left side of the box and firing the ball parallel to the goalline. Veteran goalie Andoni Zubizarreta, standing about 1½ 1/2 yards from the near post and facing Lawal, reached down with his right hand and deflected the ball into his own net. Lawal was credited with the goal.
"We had the match in our grasp,'' Spanish Coach Javier Clemente said. "We could have won 3-1, but it got away from us, We just got careless.''
The white-and-green clad Nigerian fans, beating drums throughout the game at the packed Beaujoire Stadium, were still rocking 5 five minutes later when Oliseh struck with a low drive that glanced in off the post.
"That third goal was just sensational,'' said Clemente, whose team lost for just the second time in 35 outings.
Spain is perennially one of Europe's strongest and has qualified for six World Cups in a row, yet its best showing was fourth place in 1950.
Nigeria made its cup debut 4 years ago and took Italy, the eventual runner-up, to overtime before losing in the second round. Its victory at the Atlanta Games only increased expectations.
A free kick by Fernando Hierro in the 21st minute gave Spain a 1-0 lead, but Nigeria tied it 4 minutes later as midfielder Mutiu Adepoju headed home Lawal's corner kick.
Two minutes into the second half, Raul flashed in on the left side and volleyed home a long through ball from Hierro.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press