Nigeria’s Super Eagles have progressed to next year’s African Nations Championship (Chan) billed to hold in Kenya after dispatching Benin Republic 2-0 on Saturday.
The win ensures that the Nigerian men’s national qualify for the tournament designed for players who feature in their country’s domestic leagues on 2-1 aggregate.
A goal in each half from Rabiu Ali and Kingsley Eduwo sealed Nigeria’s passage to the tournament proper.
Nigeria coach Salisu Yusuf fielded a strong line-up including top scorer in the country’s league this season Stephen Odey who started alongside Eduwo.
The Nigerians were all over their West African neighbour from the outset of the match with Ali, Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, Osas Okoro and Alhassan Ibrahim in the thick of happenings.
On 17 minutes, Okoro’s perfect cross was met by Eduwo whose weak header was comfortably gathered by Benin goalkeeper Steve Glodjinon.
Two minutes later, Okoro’s cross once again, this time from a corner kick, was headed off target by Akwa United centre half Emmanuel Ariwachukwu from close range.
However Glodjinon could nothing to stop Ali from side-footing the ball into the net on 22 minutes after good work Alhassan against a deep-defending Beninoise side.
Despite conceding Benin still remained camped in their half hoping for a counterattack which rarely came as Eduwo, Okoro and Chima Akas were close to doubling the lead before the break. In fact, Akas’ 43rd minute free kick crashed against the upright and bounced back into play to the relief of the Benin goalkeeper.
It was Nigeria who began the second 45 minutes on the front foot again. Two minutes after the restart, Eduwo flung himself at Okoro’s cross to nod past Glodjinon for Nigeria’s second goal.
Just past the hour mark, referee Joaquin Esono awarded Benin a spot kick after Stephen Eze’s hand blocked a goal-bound attempt. Nigeria goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa guessed right and saved Mama Seibou’s penalty to ensure his team’s two-goal lead remain intact.
The game took an end-to-end approach as Nigeria held on to qualify for Chan for the third time after featuring in 2014 and 2016 in South Africa and Rwanda respectively.