Just as happened in their only previous encounter 13 years ago, which was also a friendly match, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia could not be separated at the end of their second-ever meeting in Portugal on Friday, with the three-time Asian champions netting a last-gasp equalizer from a free-kick at the edge of the box that deflected off Calvin Bassey.
Victor Osimhen, Ademola Lookman and Samuel Chukwueze had first-half chances to put the Super Eagles ahead but could not, only for the Saudis, who had lost their last six matches in all competitions, to take a shock lead on the hour mark when goalkeeper Francis Uzoho palmed the ball into his own net from a free-kick way out on the right flank by Salman Al Faraj.
Coach Jose Peseiro introduced Terem Moffi for the injured Victor Osimhen, and brought in Bright Osayi-Samuel, Kelechi Iheanacho and Moses Simon to relieve Tyronne Ebuehi, Lookman and Chukwueze.
This appeared to improve Nigeria’s lot at the fore, as Iheanacho and Simon rattled the Falcons’ defence at will, and Simon was the architect of Nigeria’s equalizer, when he did a yeoman’s job to lay the ball to Victor Boniface to score his first Nigeria goal from a tight angle in the 73rd minute.
Eight minutes later, Iheanacho drove the ball powerfully into the net beyond the flailing hands of the Falcons’ goalie, after Moffi and Simon combined to put the opposing defence in knots.
The game came less than 24 hours after the Super Eagles learnt they would be playing hosts Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau and Equatorial Guinea in the group phase at the Africa Cup of Nations early next year, and 48 hours after they adopted ‘Let’s Do It Again’ as their mantra for the trophy quest in Cote d’Ivoire.
On Monday, the Super Eagles will take on the Mambas of Mozambique in another friendly encounter at the same venue, before 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Lesotho and Zimbabwe next month.