Diego Forlan marked his 100th cap with a stunning second-half winner in Salvador as Uruguay beat Nigeria in the Confederations Cup.
The 34-year-old, who had not scored in his previous 12 internationals, lit up the Arena Fonte Nova with a thunderous strike to see off the Super Eagles.
Diego Lugano had given Uruguay a scrappy first-half lead from close range, only for Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi to bring Nigeria level with a brilliantly taken goal shortly before the interval before Forlan's winner.
As Nigeria pressed for a second, Uruguay raced away on the counter attack and the former Manchester United striker thumped home a thunderous left-foot winner from 16 yards after a fluid break that involved Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
Forlan finds the target
- Forlan's goal was his 34th for Uruguay in 100 appearances
- It was his first in 2013 and only his second since 2011
- He scored five goals in 19 appearances for Brazilian side Internacional last season
The result ends Nigeria's 18-match unbeaten run, stretching back to May 2012, and leaves the Africa Cup of Nations champions facing a tough task in their final Group B match with Spain. The world and European champions top the group with six points, while Nigeria and Uruguay are level on three points.
Throughout the match,
the deep rumblings, loud bags and the crackle of police weapons
could be heard in the streets nearby. And yet on the field the battle raged on with both teams knowing the importance of victory to their chances of progressing to the semi-finals.
With Spain clear favourites for Group B and Tahiti obvious minnows, this contest was always going to be the most fiercely contested of the group - and so it proved.
Nigeria had looked grateful that they had only had to overcome Tahiti in their first match of the tournament after a disrupted build-up. But Uruguay were an entirely different proposition with Suarez, Cavani and Forlan forming a formidable frontline, albeit in an ageing team.
And it was the South Americans who found their fluency first, slicing through the Nigeria defence time and again. Cavani might have done better on two occasions while Cristian Rodriguez also went close.
The mostly Brazilian crowd soon took the Super Eagles to their hearts but just as they began to find their rhythm, Uruguay burst their bubble with the scrappiest of goals.
Forlan found the ball back at his feet after a poor corner and slid his pass along the six-yard line. Cavani missed an attempted flick between his legs but Lugano forced the ball over the line with his shin from six yards. It mattered not.
Nigeria's fragile confidence had been rocked but Stephen Keshi has built a squad that is nothing if not resilient and they responded in a way few inside the ground had expected. Uwa Echiejile found Brown Ideye, who in turn slipped the ball to Mikel, some 20 yards from goal.
Super Eagles' wings clipped
The defeat was Nigeria's first in 19 games. Their previous defeat came in May 2012, 1-0 against Peru in Lima
The Chelsea midfielder skipped beyond the static Lugano and steered a rising left-foot shot beyond Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera and high into the top left-hand corner of the net.
But from nowhere, Uruguay's trio of attacking talent clicked into gear. Suarez and Cavani combined to set Forlan racing free down the left of the penalty area and from there he thumped a rasping left-foot shot that was beyond Enyema before he knew it.
Having offered very little for so long, Uruguay suddenly found their spark. Cavani was put through on goal, only to slice his shot woefully wide, while Maximiliano Pereira almost beat his own goalkeeper at the other end.
Napoli forward Cavani headed over shortly after but Forlan had done the damage and Nigeria, barring a massive upset against Spain in Fortaleza on Sunday, are heading home.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said:
"Diego Forlan is a top striker with the way he uses both feet and the way he handles the ball. He showcased that talent.
"Since the draw we knew that this was the huge match to play. We have taken a huge step toward the semi-finals but we're not there yet."
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said:
"I think my players played well and played to instructions. It was just one minute's lack of concentration that made the difference. Otherwise it was good."
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Thursday, 20 June 2013
FIFA Confederations Cup