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2023 U-20 AFCON Qualifying: Nigeria cruises past 10-man Benin in WAFU-B final following controversial penalty

Nigeria eased to victory in the final of the WAFU-Zone B under-20 qualifying competition for the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations on Friday, defeating Benin 3-1. A controversial penalty towards the end of the first half led to a red card for Benin’s Cyrille Aloya and a penalty kick goal for Nigeria, clearing the way for a comfortable Flying Eagles victory as they moved out to a 3-0 lead before Benin’s late consolation. Both teams advance to the 2023 U-20 AFCON regardless of the result with Nigeria set to make their eighteenth appearance and Benin their third.

Benin were the surprise of the tournament with their enterprising play and the Young Squirrels once again were not intimidated by the favored Nigerians. The underdogs had an apparent penalty shout when Rivaldo Alitonou’s corner kick saw Samidou Bawa pushed down by a Nigerian defender but the referee elected not to give a penalty kick.

The fortunes of the Squirrels turned against them in the 37th minute. A through ball sent Nigeria forward Adams Olubi in on goal and his shot from a sharp angle was deflected by Benin goalkeeper Dava Agossa back to the middle of the penalty area. Tolulope Ojo had only two defenders to beat when the ball came to him with Agossa out of position but his shot was bravely stopped by a sliding Aloya. However, despite keeping his arms close to his body the referee controversially awarded a penalty kick after a long consultation with his assistants before handing out a straight red card to Aloya for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity. Ojo sent a flawless penalty beyond Agossa for the opening goal.

Benin came close to leveling just before halftime when Nigeria keeper Nathaniel Nwosu was caught way off his line but a resulting cross and header was cleared off the line by the Nigerian defense. After halftime the Squirrels could not quite muster a comeback with their numerical disadvantage. Ojo unleashed a Goal of the Tournament contender with a blast from 23 yards that left Agossa with no chance in the 69th minute.

Nigeria made it a three-goal lead in the 77th minute when a disastrous pass out of the back from Agossa went right to Ibrahim Muhammad, who sent a lobbed shot over the retreating keeper to put the match away. An excellent individual run from Alitonou led to him finding Farid Edou with a cross for an easy finish to give Benin a consolation but the final was clearly won by the Flying Eagles at that point.

Highlights from the final are below.

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