Plucky Greece make Nigeria pay
Torosidis makes history for Rehhagel's men
By Mike Barton. Last Updated: June 17, 2010 5:24pm
Salpingidis: Scored first
Greece came from behind to achieve history as they beat Nigeria 2-1 in Bloemfontein to give them a chance to qualify for the second round of the World Cup.
It was their first win in five attempts at the finals, having come back from the 1994 tournament without a point or a goal to their name, meaning a point against Argentina in their final game in Group B could be enough to take them through.
Dimitris Salpingidis first sealed a piece of history with the Greeks' first ever goal of the tournament thanks to a deflected shot on the stroke of half-time to cancel out Kalu Uche's early opener.
Nigeria appeared to be in control of proceedings but the game changed as Sani Kaita was dismissed for a kick at Vasilis Torosidis.
But it was former hero Vincent Enyeama who turned villain as the goalkeeper, who was outstanding against Argentina in Nigeria's opener, fumbled a speculative shot out to Torosidis who converted to give the 2004 European champions their first taste of glory on this stage.
The match began in the style of many of the tournament's games so far, with both teams feeling their way into the contest rather than coming out all guns blazing.
Uche gave the Nigerians the lead in the 16th minute with a deep cross into the box from a free-kick which went over everyone's head straight into the net.
Peter Odemwingie looked like he got the final touch, but replays suggested that the winger did not touch the ball as it sailed past a helpless Alexandros Tzorvas in goal.
It was a hammer blow for manager Otto Rehhagel's men, who built their reputation as a tough-to-beat side during their victorious campaign six years ago.
Their defensive nous and expertise at keeping games tight looked to be a thing of the past without talismanic defender Traianos Dellas and goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis, who no longer play international football.
Without them Greece looked all at sea at the back, and their lack of attacking ability was becoming apparent as they could not get going in the final third.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos came closest to a response midway through the first half after meeting a header from a Giorgos Karagounis set-piece, but his effort bounced well wide of goalkeeper Enyeama's goal.
The Liverpool centre-back found another chance coming his way from a corner on the half-hour mark but his header sailed way over the bar, posing Greece's only realistic threat.
Despite Nigeria not being the most accomplished of sides they were firmly in control in the first half-hour, keeping Greece at arm's length and restricting them to long, hopeful passes into the box that were leaving strikers Theofanis Gekas and Salpingidis to feed on scraps.
The game changed in controversial circumstances however when Kaita was dismissed for kicking out at Torosidis. The Greek midfielder certainly made the most of it, falling down theatrically from Kaita's kick out at him following a dispute over a throw-in.
Kaita hung his head after the initial surprise of his dismissal, putting his shirt over his head for what was a silly and needless piece of petulance that ended up costing his team.
Greece immediately went on the offensive, bringing on Celtic's Giorgios Samaras for defender Socratis Papaststhopoulos to bolster their attacking options as they went on the hunt for an equaliser.
Shortly after, Salpingidis broke clear but was denied by the legs of Enyeama when he should have hit the net.
Greece were having their best spell of the game shortly before half-time, with Katsouranis volleying wide from a corner and Samaras having a mis-hit shot cleared off the line.
And shortly before the half-time whistle, they got their reward and their first ever goal at a World Cup finals at the fifth attempt.
Katsouranis won the ball in the area to lay it off to Salpingidis, but with his well-struck shot appearing to be going wide, the ball clipped the heel of Lukman Haruna and ballooned over the wrong-footed Enyeama into the top corner.
It was surprisingly becoming an exciting spectacle with both sides attacking as the half-time whistle was blown, setting the tone for the second period.
Greece started the better of the two, knowing a win was essential to keep their hopes of getting through the group stage alive, raining in several crosses, one of which was headed way over from captain Karagounis, who should have done better.
Nigeria however came close after a good cross from Uche in the 48th minute which appeared to be goalbound but the ball was tipped over the bar by Tzorvas.
Backs to the wall
Nigeria had to have their backs to the wall as their opponents exposed the flanks thanks to an injury to Taye Taiwo left them down to nine men temporarily. Kyrgiakos managed to escape his marker for another downward header but it fell disappointingly into the arms of Enyeama.
Soon after, huge drama followed as both sides had brilliant chances to score as the game became stretched shortly before the hour mark.
Greece got the first opportunity thanks to a poor defensive clearance from Super Eagles captain Joseph Yobo fell to Salpingidis, but his shot was well saved from point-blank range by Enyeama.
From that chance Nigeria broke to the other end at pace with Yakubu being put clean through and his shot was well saved by Tzorvas but half-time substitute Chinedu Ogbuke was guilty of the miss of the tournament so far as his follow up bounced wide of an open goal.
The tension surrounding the game began to rise as Samaras saw his header clawed away by a fine save from Enyeama as Greece began to turn the screw, using their man advantage to good effect.
But after the Nigerian keeper's heroics so far in this tournament, things went drastically wrong as Torosidis made him pay for what was another goalkeeping fumble in the competition.
A Karagounis corner was only cleared away to Tziolis, whose speculative shot was not gathered by Enyeama, leaving Torosidis the easiest of finishes as he pounced to give Greece the lead in the 71st minute.
The game carried on at a frantic pace, with both Karagounis and Yakubu going close with long-range shots for both sides in what was proving to be one of the most exciting games of the finals so far.
Enyeama then saved from Karagounis after another long-range effort with the infamous Jabulani matchball causing problems for the Hapoel Tel Aviv shot-stopper.
Nigeria huffed and puffed to try and get back into the game but Greece looked the more likely to finish it off as Kyrgiakos missed another chance to seal victory, making their extra man count and stretching the Africans, but in the end it was not to matter for the Greeks.