Nigeria left it late on Sunday, but ultimately secured all three points on Saturday as they defeated Benin 1-0 in Porto-Novo.
Substitute Paul Onuachu was the hero as he netted a 93rd-minute close-range winner to secure the Super Eagles’ first victory since 2019.
🇧🇯 Benin 0-1 Nigeria 🇳🇬
— CAF (@CAF_Online) March 27, 2021
It wasn’t a vintage Nigeria display—even if they did end Benin’s eight-year undefeated home streak—but it was nonetheless a job well done for the West African giants.
Thanks to the Confederation of African Football, the best bits of the contest are able to watch again in this two-minute highlights package which showcases the best of the Super Eagles during the encounter.
Admittedly, it wasn’t a free-flowing display of football, nor was it a thoroughly convincing triumph, but Nigeria were nonetheless good value for their three points.
Indeed, an argument could be made, that had they not come up against a keeper in fine form in Benin’s Saturnin Allagbe, with the Squirrels’ stopper making a series of fine blocks to keep the scores level.
Some may have grumbled at Nigeria’s lack of fluidity, and indeed, there are areas for improvement.
Gernot Rohr didn’t get the best out of Kelechi Iheanacho, who was played in tandem with Victor Osimhen, with the Leicester City man struggling to fill the creative void for the West African giants in the absence of Alex Iwobi.
🚨 Podcast Alert 🎬 #Afcon2021Q : 🐿️ 🇧🇯 🆚 🇳🇬 🦅
Kelechi Iheanacho’s last 🔟 games for Leicester City ⚡
🗣️: Can Iheanacho translate his Leicester City form to Nigeria and help them qualify for Afcon?
— Goal Africa (@GoalAfrica) March 26, 2021
The Everton man was missing for the contest after testing positive for Covid-19, although there have subsequently been some question marks about the legitimacy of the test.
Elsewhere, Joe Aribo didn’t truly demonstrate the silky skills that he has shown in the Scottish Premier League this season, while Henry Onyekuru—granted a gilt-edged opportunity after replacing Iwobi—perhaps didn’t make the most of his chance to impress.
The bottom line, however, is that the Eagles now advance to the Africa Cup of Nations proper, with qualification having been secured ahead of the Benin bout.
Ultimately, the 0-0 draw between Lesotho and Sierra Leone in the group’s other game was enough to ensure that the Eagles couldn’t be caught in the top two positions.
The victory over Benin, however, will give the team confidence, ending their barren run of triumphs, and should leave them well placed to outclass Lesotho in Lagos in their final group game next week.