Chris Ogu scored a goal with approximately five minutes remaining to give Nigeria a 2-1 victory over Haiti in the championship game of the National Bank of Washington Embassy Cup soccer tournament yesterday at the JFK Memorial fields on the Mall.
With Nigerian Ambassador Ignatius Olisemeka and Haitian Ambassador Dr. Adrien L. Raymond among about 350 spectators, Ogu's goal broke a tie created in the first half when Haiti's Gerald Jean-Pierre, a powerful striker and a former member of the country's national team, converted a corner kick from Rudy Jean-Baptiste.
Jean-Baptiste, a graduate of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School who will attend UNC-Wilmington, sent his curving corner kick toward the far side of the goal with about five minutes remaining in the first half.
The Nigerian team -- composed of 20 nationals, embassy employes and members of their families, and participating in the 3-year-old tournament for the first time -- compiled a record of 5-0 and outscored its opponents, 15-4, en route to the title in the 30-team, month-long competition.
Ogu, the center forward, controlled the ball in his own zone and dribbled two-thirds the length of the field along the left sideline. He got beyond the last defender, drew goalie Jacques Paul to the near post and scored on a waist-high shot.
"I had the goalkeeper on the right post, so I shot for the far post," said Ogu, an employe at the Nigerian Embassy. "I had to use all my strength to dribble down the line. I saw the defense was straight in line."
Although Haiti controlled the play and had scoring opportunities early in the game, Nigeria took a 1-0 lead when center midfielder Friday Johnson beat the Haitian goalie on a breakaway. Johnson stripped the ball from a Nigerian midfielder and executed a simple two-man play with Ogu. Ogu immediately passed the ball back to Johnson, who only had to beat the goalie.
"The whole team was coming up," said Jean-Jacques Alexis, the Haitian team's sweeper. "There was a mistake in the midfield and everybody was behind (Johnson). After that we missed a penalty kick. We had a few good opportunities, but we couldn't realize them."
Haiti's best opportunities came off the foot of Jean-Pierre, who once played midfield for the Haitian national team and who scored two goals and assisted on a third last week when the Haitian team defeated Britain, 3-1, in a semifinal. Nigeria reached the final when it beat Bolivia, 3-2.
In the first half, Haiti was awarded a free kick from 35 yards in front of the goal. Jean-Pierre's shot sailed just over the crossbar. Moments later, a shot by Frederic Jean Theodore struck the crossbar. After Nigeria went ahead, 1-0, Jean-Pierre's penalty kick missed wide left.
The Nigerian team's goalie, Raymon Oyegbola, made two big saves in the first half and nullified the Haitian's best opportunity in the second half when he dove and tapped a shot off Jean-Pierre's left foot over the crossbar.