Angel delivers Argentina gold
© AFP

Argentina managed a thin 1-0 win over Nigeria in a sizzling contest from the Bird's Nest national stadium in Beijing on Saturday. A lone goal from Angel Di Maria early in the second half sees the South Americans take home their second straight Men's Olympic Football gold, while Nigeria are forced to settle for consolation silver.

The match began promisingly enough with Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero carving out early chances for the Argentines, and Solomon Okoronkwo and Peter Odemwingie looking dangerous for the Africans.

On ten minutes, the lively Okoronkwo looked to have committed a fatal mistake when he fouled Angel Di Maria and gifted Argentina a free-kick at the edge of the box. Luckily for the Hertha Berlin man, though, Riquelme blazed his try well over Ambruse Vanzekin's crossbar.

Only two minutes later, Okoronkwo - looking dangerous out on the right - linked up well with Odemwingie. But the danger-man with the bright red boots could only hit over from a tough angle inside the box.

Argentina were controlling possession, but Nigeria were looking the more dangerous side with their lightning-fast counter-attacks. The African backs, defending smartly, were not diving in on the mazy dribbles of the tricky Messi or Aguero.

As the first half ground to a close, captain Promise Isaac spurned a pair of chances on the Argentine doorstep when a Nigerian goal looked on the cards. Luciano Monzon had the best chance of the final minutes, but his wicked shot from 30 yards sailed over and the half ended scoreless.

The Argentines came out from the break looking the fresher of the two, and in more of an attacking posture. After two half chances went begging for the effervescent pairing of Aguero and Messi, Angel Di Maria popped up virtually out of nowhere to give the South Americans a lead.

On the end of a well-styled counter-attack, Messi managed to pull the Nigerian defenders out of position with his close control, before sending an inch-perfect through ball to Di Maria, racing in from a deep position.

Eating up the ground between himself and the advancing Vanzekin, the Benfica hit-man and Argentina U-20 World Champion from 2007 chipped cheekily over the keeper to score (1-0).

The Nigerians, predictably undeterred by the hardship, did their steady best to haul themselves back into the match. On 65 minutes Odemwingie was through down the right channel and crossing dangerously through the face of goal. Unfortunately for the 1996 gold winners, substitute Victor Anichebe's close-range stab was deflected clear on its way to goal.

The next chance for an equaliser was almost comical in nature. In the 72nd minute Javier Mascherano tried to clear a ball in his penalty area, but it was blocked by Ebenezer Ajilore and nearly deflected past the surprised Sergio Romero.

Nigerian pressure was mounting. With a quarter-hour to go Odemwingie just missed a chance to poke home a cross from Onyekachi Apam when Romero looked all at sea. In the 78th minute Sani Kaiti's bullet shot from 18 yards went just over the Argentina crossbar as the Africans threw everything into a frenzied last attack.

The best Nigerian chance came with six minutes to go. Kaita put a sizzler across the goal box after some fine work on the left flank, but Anichebe's near post stab was brilliantly batted away by Romero to a shudder of disbelief from the Nigerian players and fans.

It proved the last chance of a hard-fought contest. The win sees Argentina pick up their second overall gold medal in Men's Football, and their second on the trot. The Nigerians pick up the silver after a stunning display throughout the competition and Brazil, who beat Belgium yesterday, take home the bronze.