Statto: Five debuts in Craven Cottage
Leon Best,Kevin Foley, Eddie Nolan,Liam Lawrence,Sean St Ledger
Republic of Ireland 1 Nigeria 1
The Republic of Ireland were held to a 1-1 friendly draw with Nigeria at Craven Cottage.
The match was a warm-up for Giovanni Trapattoni's side ahead of their forthcoming 2010 World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria on 6th June, with the Irish unbeaten in Group 8.
Michael Enemaro had opened the scoring for Nigeria on the half-hour mark, but Robbie Keane then levelled in the 38th minute.
Leon Best, one of five debuts handed out by Trapattoni, struck the post with a header just before Keane struck.
Trapattoni now has options after Kevin Foley, Sean St Ledger, Eddie Nolan, Liam Lawrence and Leon Best were among the debutants starting. Keiren Westwood then came on at the break for his first appearance.
The Italian wanted to look at these players ahead of the trip to Sofia, where a win will mean a huge stride towards at least a play-off to reach South Africa next year.
It was Foley, however, who was at fault for Enemaro's goal on 30 minutes.
Nigeria had hardly threatened seriously, apart from a speculative 40-yard free-kick from Sone Aluko that Shay Given tipped over, but they were ahead slightly against the run of play.
Femi Olubayo, on the right, fizzed in a cross first time which Foley should have cleared but Enemaro was a fraction quicker, wrapped his foot around the ball and his finish beat Given.
That sprung Ireland into action, with three debutants combining shortly after.
Lawrence swung over a free-kick that St Ledger headed back into the danger area, with Best's finish striking the post.
Best's partnership with Keane was showing signs of promise, with the Coventry striker latching onto balls through and getting close before he struck the woodwork.
However, Best did not have a part to play in Keane's leveller. It was an eye-pleasing move, starting from Liam Miller's flick around a defender to Keith Andrews.
Andrews split the Nigeria defence with his pass, then Ireland's skipper and all-time top scorer did the rest, taking the ball past goalkeeper Austin Ejide and tucking away his finish.
Westwood came on for his debut at half-time, with Trapattoni replacing three of his senior players. Given, Keane and Damien Duff made way, with Aiden McGeady and Shane Long the other players introduced.
Long almost grabbed a goal seven minutes after the interval when Best chased down Ejide and forced the goalkeeper into a poor clearance. Long measured his lob but Ejide was back in time to palm away.
McGeady tried his luck from long range with 20 minutes remaining but his effort swerved wide, then Foley was replaced by Paul McShane.
The crowd started a Mexican wave with plenty of time remaining, a sign of the friendly heading towards a draw.
Nigeria themselves have a World Cup qualifier against Kenya coming up and players such as Obafemi Martins did not feature, while Joseph Yobo and Mikel John Obi were preparing for Saturday's FA Cup final between Everton and Chelsea, respectively .
Nsofor Obinna came off the bench for the Africans and went just wide with a drive.
From the FAI website
Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane scored his 39th International goal as Ireland came from behind to draw against Nigeria at Craven Cottage in tonight’s friendly game. Keane found the net, his fourth time to score in the last five matches, eight minutes after Michael Eneramo had put Nigeria ahead on the half hour mark,
Debutant Leon Best was straight into the action, feeding off a through ball by Robbie Keane but goalkeeper Austin Ejide raced from his goal-line to clear, winning a free-kick for his troubles.
Liam Miller conceded a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area with nine minutes elapsed but John Utaka’s effort was blocked by the defensive wall.
Three minutes later, Nigeria defender Sam Sodje got across to head away for a corner just as Ireland's centre-half Sean St. Ledger appeared poised to nod home a cross from the right by Eddie Nolan.
The Africans regrouped and Shay Given had to retreat swiftly to tip over a quickly-taken 30 yard free kick by Kalu Uche.
The front partnership of Best and Keane was showing signs of cohesion and the Coventry striker was denied a shot on goal by Sodje’s saving tackle on 28 minutes.
From the resulting corner, Best flicked onto the unmarked Keane but the Irish skipper completely missed his volley and the danger was cleared.
Nigeria went ahead on the half hour on the back of a flowing move originated by Utaka. The Portsmouth attacker spotted Olubayo Adefemi raiding forward from his right-back position and when the defender delivered a low cross, Michael Eneramo was first to react and swept the ball home from eight yards.
The Irish searched for a goal and Best came close to drawing level as his header clipped the outside of the post after 36 minutes.
Two minutes later, Ireland drew level. Damien Duff won the ball on the left, passing to Liam Miller whose flick released Keith Andrews into space. Robbie Keane ran behind the defence to collect Andrews’ threaded pass and rounded Ejide before tapping into an empty net.
Giovanni Trapattoni clearly had Saturday week's World Cup qualifier in Sofia against Bulgaria in mind when he replaced Keane, Duff and Given at the break.
Keiren Westwood swapped with Given in goal for his debut cap, Shane Long went into attack alongside Best, while McGeady patrolled the left flank.
Long conjured an early opening in the second half, capitalising on Ejide’s hesitancy as Best charged down the goalkeeper’s attempted clearance. The Reading striker tried a lob but the ‘keeper scampered back to palm away for a corner.
The introduction of McGeady brought some exuberance to the left flank and, following one of his trademark dribbles with 20 minutes left, the Celtic flanker veered a drive wide of the far post.
Westwood had little to do as the pace dropped off but the newcomer looked assured behind a defence that finished the game with Paul McShane at right-back, having replaced Foley on 71 minutes.
Republic of Ireland: Shay Given (Manchester City); Kevin Foley (Wolves), Richard Dunne (Manchester City), Sean St. Ledger (Preston North End), Eddie Nolan (Preston North End); Liam Lawrence (Stoke City), Liam Miller (QPR), Keith Andrews (Blackburn Rovers), Damien Duff (Newcastle United) ; Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur), Leon Best (Coventry City).
Substitutes: Aiden McGeady (Celtic) for Duff, Shane Long (Reading) for Keane and Keiren Westwood (Coventry City) for Given (all half-time), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City) for Andrews (59 mins), Paul McShane (Sunderland) for Foley (71 mins), Stephen Hunt (Reading) for Lawrence (81 mins).
Nigeria: Ejide; Adefemi, Sodje, Mohammed, Olofinjana; Aluko (Obinna 61 mins), Uche, Adeleye, Utaka; Akpala (Odemwingle 61 mins), Eneramo.
Referee: W. Collum.