Paul Onuachu’s late goal helped Nigeria end Benin’s unbeaten home run since 2013 with a 1-0 victory in their penultimate Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on Saturday.
The defeat dealt a blow to the Squirrels’ qualification hopes as they now need to avoid defeat against third-placed Sierra Leone when they face each other on Tuesday.
Earlier before Saturday’s outing in Porto-Novo, the Super Eagles confirmed their qualification for next year’s tournament in Cameroon after Sierra Leone played a 0-0 draw with Lesotho.
The last time Benin conceded a home defeat was in a World Cup qualifying match against Algeria in 2013 while the Genk star scored his second goal for the Super Eagles since his debut goal against Egypt two years ago.
Gernot Rohr’s side had to wait till the stoppage-time to beat Dijon’s Beninoise goalkeeper Saturnin Allagbe who was impressive in the match through Onauchu’s header.
The three-time African champions created the most chances in the first-half but could not just find the back of the net. Ola Aina played a fine cross to Henry Onyekuru who controlled the ball with a pass for Kelechi Iheanacho but the Leicester City star was unlucky with his effort.
Some minutes later, Porto’s Zaidu Sanusi drifted past Youssouf Assogba to put in a cross to Onyekuru whose shot was well parried by goalkeeper Allagbe.
While the attacking quartet of Samuel Chukwueze, Victor Osimhen, Onyekuru and Iheanacho battled to give Nigeria the lead in the opening 45 minutes, Benin striker Steve Mounie struggled to break the Super Eagles’ defence.
The hosts registered just a single corner-kick while the Super Eagles had seven corner-kicks before the interval.
It was a lively start to the second 45 minutes and Nigeria started on a promising note with Chukwueze close to finding the back of the net. Four minutes later, Mounie got two chances within a minute to put Michel Dussuyer’s side ahead but goalkeeper Maduka Okoye was in control.
At the other end, Osimhen fired in a right-footed shot which hit the post but Sanusi could not find the target with the rebound.
Benin continued with their crosses and Mounie, in the 62nd minute, made a great leap to connect with Assogba’s cross but his header was put out of danger by Okoye.
Gernot Rohr made his first substitution in the 70th minute with Iheanacho making way for Genk’s Onuachu and Benin also had Michael Pote replace Cebio Soukou.
Eight minutes later, the Squirrels made their final substitution as Marcelin Koukpo was introduced for Dossou while Enyimba’s Anayo Iwuala came on for his Super Eagles debut as a substitute for Onyekuru.
Rohr continued with his tactical switch in the 83rd minute by having Chidozie Awaziem replace Aina in his third substitution.