That's right. From open play. With his weaker foot. Like a boss. Hands off, Galatasaray.
While Diego Lugano, the Uruguay defender made to look like a fool with flat feet, is well past his best, that was still an amazingly composed dip of the shoulder and well-taken goal by a player who has yet to score a single Premier League goal for Chelsea. He does have a couple in the FA Cup but those happened so long ago that they've been pretty much lost to the sands of time.
Mikel's first half goal brought Nigeria level, canceling out Lugano's (how appropriate!) opener. The defender was the recipient of a rather hilariously missed backheel-flick from Edinson Cavani on a low cross from Diego Forlan. With Nigeria's defense mostly ball-watching, Lugano managed to score even though he mishit his shot. Chelsea target Cavani started brightly, but had trouble with timing his runs properly. Three offsides within the first twenty minutes were his most significant contribution.
As we saw in the friendly versus Mexico, Nigeria's defense is not exactly their strong point - especially when Godfrey Oboabona refuses to pay any attention and leave Kenneth Omeruo with all the work to do. The young Chelsea prospect with his bright yellow boots was up to the task today however and kept Cavani's threat mostly under control. While he did give away a somewhat cheap foul early with a sneaky forearm to the back of a head worth €63m, he was impeccable in 1-v-1 defending and his positioning improved as the match went along. He even picked up a head injury, the second Chelsea central defender in two days made to bleed his own blood. Kenneth Omeruo, like a rock.
Level at the break, Nigeria started brightly in the second half, threatening with pace on the wings and power through the middle. Mikel, not for the first time, looked like the best player on the pitch, playing in his usual further-forward role for the national side. But as it often tends to happen in the cruel world of football, it would be Uruguay to score their second instead. A wonderful, ruthless counter-attack saw their front three of Suarez - Cavani - Forlan combine with pace, power, and accuracy, Cavani providing the final pass for Forlan to blast into the top corner.
Up 2-1 early in the second half, Uruguay sat back and looked to counter. Nigeria controlled the play - or should we say Mikel controlled the play (100+ touches) - but unfortunately managed to carve out few truly threatening sccoring opportunities. Musa and Ideye both wasted promising situations. At the other end, Cavani sent a shot into low-Earth orbit and missed a wide-open header from a free kick. It was not his best day, despite the win, the assist and several useful-looking runs.
With the loss, Nigeria are left with the near-impossible task of having to beat Spain to qualify for the semifinals. But having started the tournament in such disarray, today's excellent showing from the Super Eagles was much more in-line with what we'd expect from the African Champions.