Paul Onuacho came from the bench as a substitute to secure a win for the Super Eagles of Nigeria as well as ensuring that the team maintain their unbeaten run in the qualification stage of the tournament, which is scheduled to hold on January 2022 in Cameroon.
He came from the bench to score in the 93rd minute as the Super Eagles defeated Benin republic 1-0 at the Stade Charles de Gaulle in Porto Novo on Saturday to delay the Squirrels’ qualification to next year’s Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Nigeria had already qualified for Cameroon AFCON 2022 even before they stepped on the pitch in Porto Novo after Sierra Leone and Lesotho had played to a barren draw.
A draw would have been enough for the Benin republic team to join the likes of Nigeria, Comoros, and other nations who have qualified for the tournament, but Paul Onuacho’s last-minute goal means they’ll have to wait for their last match away to Sierra Leone, who also looks forward to qualifying for the tournament.
Benin, who need just a point to go through, will hope they find and convert their best chances against Sierra Leone who are currently in the third position with four points and could qualify if they beat Benin.
It was a game of two halves In Porto Novo as Nigeria dominated the opening half while Benin’s Squirrels had more chances in the second period, but were unable to convert their efforts to goals.
Prior to the kick-off, The Super Eagles were briefed with the pre-match news that they were already qualified for Cameroon.
Nevertheless, as early as the fifth minute, the Nigerians were already causing their hosts jitters when Victor Osimhen struck a shot wide across the face of goal when he was sent through by Henry Onyekuru. And two minutes later, Benin keeper Saturnin Allagbe made a brilliant one handed save to tip over a snapshot from Kelechi Iheanacho.
The Super Eagles continued to dominate the match and Osimhen once again had another chance in the 24th minute. However, the lanky Napoli striker took a hurried shot that was easily saved when a good interchange of passes released him into the box.
Gernot Rohr’s men almost opened up the goal scoring with some neat team play in the 33rd minute when Ola Aina switched flanks to float the ball to Onyekuru on the left, the winger teeing up Iheanacho but his shot deflected for a corner.
Just before the half time, Benin keeper Allagbe made a super block at point blank to deny Onyekuru who snapped in a quick header from a decent Zaidu Sanusi cross from the left.
The home team did start strong into the second 45 minutes and were the better side. They had a chance presented to them in the 51st minute through a slip-off play between William Troost-Ekong and keeper Maduka Okoye saw Mounie sneak in between the two, but his attempted lob over the keeper was wide.
Okoyo was forced to make a good save in the 63rd minute when he went down to his left flank to pluck out a header from Mounie who had risen to connect to a Youssouf Amouda cross.
The last 25 minutes of the game were a seesaw affair between the two sides. And It was
Gernot Rohr’s men who would come alive in the final minutes and their late pressure bore fruit when Onuachu headed home after keeper Allagbe had saved Osimhen’s effort with his feet.