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   22 May, 2002 | 2110 IST


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Nigeria held by Yokohama in warm-up

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Alastair Himmer

Teenage striker Bartholomew Ogbeche scored two goals as Nigeria twice came from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw with Japanese club side Yokohama F-Marinos in a World Cup warm-up match on Wednesday.

Yokohama stung Nigeria in the 35th minute when forward Daisuke Sakata beat the offside trap and fired a right-foot shot into the top corner from the edge of the box to bring the game to life at the Hiratsuka stadium.

But the Africans took just three minutes to equalise, midfielder Pius Ikedia weaving his way past three defenders to set up Ogbeche and the 17-year-old Paris Saint Germain striker gave F-Marinos goalkeeper Tatsuya Enomoto no chance with a first-time shot.

But just when Nigeria appeared to have found their rhythm, Yokohama scored again when Daisuke Oku -- who was left out of Japan's World Cup squad last week -- curled a free kick just inside the post in first-half stoppage time.

Nigeria, who play England, Argentina and Sweden in World Cup group F, struck back moments into the second half, Ogbeche blasting in a free kick from almost the same spot as Oku to restore parity for a second time.


With Arsenal's Nwankwo Kanu asserting himself in a midfield role, Nigeria began to put together some flowing moves, although they continued to look jittery in defence.

Brazilian Dutra almost snatched a third for Yokohama after beating Taribo West for pace down the left but his shot flew just wide.

With six minutes left, Kanu released forward Julius Aghahowa with a wonderful through-ball only for his left-foot effort to slide agonisingly wide with Enomoto beaten.

Nigeria, who came into the match after beating Ireland 2-1 and Jamaica 1-0 in the past week, were almost embarrassed right at the death when Sakata missed from close range after another defensive breakdown.

"We were not able to cope with their mobility. They were often first to the ball and if you are not able to get possession, you cannot control the game," said Nigerian coach Festus Adegboye Onigbinde.

"That is a major area we need to work on. We want to dominate, we don't want to share the ball with anybody. But the players are still jet-lagged so I am satisfied with the performance."

West is confident that Nigeria will do well at the World Cup finals, which kick off on May 31.

"We could be one of the best teams in the World Cup. We will need to sharpen up but we will work much harder and be very vigilant against the teams we encounter in the World Cup," he said.

Nigeria, who only arrived in Japan on Monday, play J-League second division side Shonan Bellmare on Sunday.

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