A last-minute strike from Uche Nwofor ensured Nigeria claimed a 2-2 draw with Scotland in an entertaining international friendly at Craven Cottage on Wednesday.
Nwofor powered home from close range in the final minute of normal time to ensure the African side, who were continuing their World Cup preparations, did not fall to defeat against Gordon Strachan’s side, who entertained a boisterous crowd in west London but could not quite cap off an encouraging display with a win.
Celtic's Charlie Mulgrew opened the scoring in unorthodox fashion, backheeling home an improvised first-time effort 10 minutes into the game before Michael Uchebo restored parity on the stroke of half-time with a deflected drive.
Azubuike Egwuekwe’s own goal shortly after the break then looked like it would give Scotland the win before Gordon Greer’s lapse at the death allowed Nwofor to sneak in and find the far corner.
“It feels a bit like defeat,” Mulgrew told BBC Scotland after the final whistle. “Disappointing to lose a goal like that, in the manner we did. We need to learn from it and move on.
“But we know we can be even better than that, so (overall) it’s encouraging.”
About 25,000 fans turned up at Craven Cottage to watch the game, ensuring a vibrant atmosphere throughout the 90 minutes as both sets of supporters made themselves heard.
It was Scotland who had the first chance—Ikechi Anya hitting the post on the break—and it was Scotland who took the lead after just 10 minutes. Mulgrew was the scorer, the midfielder finding the corner perfectly with a cheeky backheel as he redirected James Morrison’s errant drive on target.
“I took a chance, just gambled on it and luckily it went in,” Mulgrew said.
Scotland continued to push forward—seeing what appeared to be a perfectly good goal disallowed after goalkeeper Austin Ejide bizarrely fumbled the ball into his own net—but it was Nigeria who grabbed the game’s next goal, again via the aid of a deflection.
This one was unintentional, however. The gangly Uchebo ran unchecked to the edge of the box before firing a shot that left Allan McGregor stranded as it looped in off the outstretched leg of defender Grant Hanley.
Scotland were pegged back for barely 10 minutes, restoring their advantage within seven minutes of the restart. This time an own goal was allowed to stand; Egwuekwe deflected Alan Hutton’s cross into his own net under pressure from Morrison.
Strachan’s side continued to create plenty of chances, with Shaun Maloney seeing another goal rule correctly ruled out this time. But in the closing stages, Nigeria rallied, with substitute Victor Moses in particular causing problems down the right.
Eventually, Scotland cracked, as slack defending from Greer inside his own box gave Nwofor just the time and space he needed to find the net and ensure Stephan Keshi’s side avoided defeat.
Scotland did not win, but they maintained their unbeaten run, and Andrew Robertson’s first start and Craig Forsyth’s first cap were both promising moments as Strachan gears up for the forthcoming qualification campaign for the 2016 European Championships.
“There are a lot of positives,” Mulgrew concluded. “I think we can pass it even better, which is a good thing as we didn’t get beat.
“We’ll reflect on it and there are positives for sure.”
Nigeria, meanwhile, know they have plenty still to work on ahead of their arrival in Brazil. Their defence looked suspect, particularly in the early stages, while there was little in the game to suggest that the likes of Shola Ameobi and Uchebo—despite his equaliser—can be a real goalscoring threat against better sides, should they be called on.
All quotes taken from BBC Scotland's live broadcast of the match.