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EFE | 02/01/2013
Catalonia closed out Johan Cruyff's chapter as coach with a 1-1 draw against Nigeria this evening, in a low-key match which the Catalans dominated clearly but didn't win due to a lack of assurance in front of goal.
It was a game lacking in football, but with an emotional edge in the stands and on the pitch, where Sergio González and Cruyff said farewell to "la selecció"; the first after fourteen years wearing the team's colours and the second after four matches unbeaten as coach.
The ex-Espanyol and Deportivo La Coruña player had the perfect start to his finale, scoring what proved to be Catalonia's only goal on three minutes from a penalty after a Nigerian hand-ball.
Seven minutes later, Sergio González left the field to be replaced by Álvaro Vázquez, the fans cheering the most-capped Catalonia player ever.
As expected, it was the home team that dictated proceedings, staying true to Cruyff's football philosophy. So, a game of positioning and touch took centre stage, with Bojan and Sergio García seeing a lot of the ball in attack, though lacking precision when in front of Chigozie's goal.
Two decades ago Nigeria exported quality players by the dozen to the biggest European leagues. But that golden age is long gone, and the team is now going through difficult times, with lesser-known local players dominating.
One of those, Ogenyi, had the only away chance of the first half, a long chip with which he tried to surprise Kiko Casilla. But it went over the bar.
The numerous changes, far from spoiling the spectacle, actually served to re-activate it in the second half, along with the spirits of near to 28,000 fans. A festive atmosphere reigned, which separatist chants and songs, hundreds of Catalonia flags and signs which promised a future for the region as "a new European state."
Tejera had a clear goal opportunity at the start of the second half, but the Nigerian defence cleared from the goal mouth. Minutes later, a speedy counter attack from the African side was finished off with composure by Bright, levelling the scores.
Uche had another chance for Nigeria minutes later, but almost everything of note that happened in the last half an hour was created by Catalonia.
Tejera and Jonathan Soriano could have won it for the home team, but the clearest chance fell to Tello in the last minute. With all the time and space in the world to beat Chigozie, he missed the target with a rushed shot with his right.