Despite each team having scoring chances throughout, Mexico and Nigeria played to a 0-0 draw in front of a record crowd of 68,220 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
The goalkeepers kept their respective teams alive, with El Tri’s Guillermo Ochoa making six saves and the Super Eagles’ keeper combination of Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide matching him at the opposite end of the pitch with five between them.
In a World Cup preparation match for both teams, Mexico and Nigeria named strong sides that included European-based players.
El Tri’s starting lineup was highlighted by Manchester United’s Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and Bayer Leverkusen’s Andres Guardado. The Super Eagles featured Chelsea’s John Mikel Obi, Liverpool’s Victor Moses and CSKA Moscow’s Ahmed Musa.
Playing in front of a pro-Mexico crowd in the United States, Nigeria looked like it was going to have a field day against El Tri shortly after the opening kick.
In the 11th minute, Emmanuel Emenike beat Rafa Marquez to the right and forced Ochoa to make an outstanding save to prevent the first goal of the match. Seconds later, off a rebound from a corner kick, Ochoa was once again put into action, diving to his left to stop a bullet from Ogenyi Onazi outside the box.
With the pressure already on Ochoa from the start, things started to get worse for the goalkeeper after he took a knee to the head during a collision with Ahmed Musa. He was down on the pitch for a couple minutes but remained in the game.
It took Mexico 22 minutes to get its first shot off when Hector Herrera dribbled to the top of the box and fired over the crossbar with his left foot. El Tri’s first real scoring opportunity came in the 26th minute as Rafa Marquez nearly knocked in a header only for keeper Vincent Enyeama to get his left hand on the ball.
From that point on, Mexico began to gain more control offensively and showed more intensity against the speedy Nigerians. The teams ended the first half with six shots apiece.
Mexico entered the second half without Chicharito, who picked up a knee injury in the opening 45 minutes. But that didn’t keep the Mexicans from threatening the visitors at the beginning of the half, with Marquez nearly knocking in a free kick from just outside the six-yard box.
In a back-and-forth match, Nigeria countered in the 55th minute when Ahmed Musa beat the back line and made Ochoa make another big save to keep the match scoreless. On the other end, Mexico’s second-half substitute Alan Pulido tested substitute keeper Ejide with a stinging shot only to be matched by a diving save.
Pulido, who scored a hat trick in his Mexico debut against South Korea earlier this year, nearly put in a rebound in the 66th minute, but Ejide once again came out on top.
Both teams made several substitutions in the closing minutes, taking out their big guns for more inexperienced players. But the results were the same as the two sides continued to have chances only to fall short of finding the net.
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