The Super Eagles of Nigeria added ice to their Champaign when they sealed victory over the squirrels of Benin moments after they qualified for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations Cup in Cameroon next January.
At a venue where teams get unstuck, with Benin having not lost in Port-Novo since 2013, it was the much-vilified Paul Onuachu who rose highest deep into additional time to gift the three-time African Champions the maximum points and total control at the top of the table heading into the last fixture against Lesotho on Tuesday in Lagos.
Standing at 6’7, it was rather fitting that Onuachu, whose only goal for the Super Eagles came exactly two years ago in a friendly against Egypt, slotted home the rebound from close range after a goalmouth scramble. It certainly mellows down the critics who have thrown sticks and knives for his previous performances for the team despiting his sterling record for his club Genk.
Onuachu might have clinched the win for the Super Eagles, however, the West African giants had already secured their berth in Cameroon due to results elsewhere prior to the match starting. Sierra Leone’s 0-0 draw with Lesotho in the group’s other qualifier meant that Nigeria, who headed into the match against Benin on eight points, could not be caught. They now have eleven points.
Nigeria officially qualify to the #TotalAFCON! 🙌
— CAF (@CAF_Online) March 27, 2021
It was the big news for the Eagles while they were warming up on the turf, and just maybe what prompted Gernot Rohr to field a very attacking team. Wilfred Ndidi was the only defensive-minded midfielder on the side, with Leicester inform man Kelechi Iheanacho playing in the hole that had Samuel Chukwueze and Henry Onyekuru flanking him.
And with Everton star Alex Iwobi missing in action after testing positive for coronavirus, according to reports in the local media, Rohr knew he had to throw the kitchen sink from the outset.
— 🇳🇬 Super Eagles (@NGSuperEagles) March 27, 2021
Onyekuru, who like Onuachu was looking for another opportunity to impress Rohr and Nigerians, didn’t take long to begin to wreak havoc on the left flank of the Benin defence. And as early as the fifth minute, his dazzling feet put Osimhen through on goal with the Napoli man’s effort going wide the mark.
From there on, Michel Dusseyer’s formed a low block in their defence and it became increasingly difficult for the Super Eagles to create chances in the final third. They began to feed off scraps from then on with the best opportunity coming just before the half-way mark falling to Onyekuru after he fed off a cross from Zaidu Sanusi.
The second half offered much of the same in terms of chances created, and at some point, it seems both teams were contented with settling for a stalemate, with Benin knowing that a point will put them over the line.
In the 62nd minute, Maduka Okoye flung himself full–length to thwart a glancing header from slipping into the net, the closest Benin came to scoring.