A composed performance on the road in Benin rewarded Nigeria with a winning goal in the final seconds on Saturday, clinching qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations. Substitute striker Paul Onuachu scored in the third minute of stoppage time to secure Nigeria’s position as Group L leaders and leave a heartbroken Beninese side to travel to Sierra Leone where they will need at least a draw. In the earlier match on Saturday in Group L, Lesotho and Sierra Leone played out a scoreless draw in Maseru.
Other than a couple of brief stretches of positive Beninese play, Nigeria were the better team throughout the ninety minutes and their goal in the dying seconds was deserved. Nigerian superstar forward Victor Osimhen had the most opportunities out of all three members of Nigeria’s frontline but Samuel Chukwueze and Henry Onyekuru were all successful in utilizing speed to get behind the Squirrels defense.
Spotty finishing and a tough Benin side known for their defensive prowess threatened to keep the match scoreless. However, in-form goalscorer Onuachu came on as a substitute and rose highest to nod in a rebound following a Chukwueze corner-kick and a relieved Nigerian side celebrated their successful qualification.
The theme in the earlier match between Lesotho and Sierra Leone was rustiness. Both teams were missing important players and failed to generate chances throughout. Sierra Leone in particular lacked any execution in attack and haven’t been able to find the back of the net since their miraculous comeback against Nigeria from four goals down in November. The Leone Stars will be relieved at Onuachu’s late goal against Benin as it leaves the door open for the West African nation to qualify if they can pull off a defeat of Benin in Freetown on the final day.
Highlights of both games from Saturday are below.