By James Agberebi in Cotonou:
Photo by Ganiyu Yusuf:
Benin Republic defeated Nigeria’s home-based Super Eagles 1-0 in the first leg of their 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifier at the Stade de l’amite in Cotonou on Sunday.
An 89th minute penalty scored by Benin skipper Seibou Mama secured the first leg win for the French-speaking country.
The win was Benin Republic second against Nigeria after losing 12 and drawing two previous encounters.
Present at the game were Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr, Nigeria Football Federation President Amaju Pinnick and League Management Company Chairman Shehu Dikko.
The return leg comes up on Saturday, 19 August, 2017 inside the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano.
The winner between Nigeria and Benin Republic will qualify for next year’s CHAN in Kenya.
Benin had the game’s first chance on 10 minutes from a dangerously swung in free-kick which evaded everyone and went away for a goalkick.
In the 12th minute, Nigeria had their first chance on goal through Chima Akas whose low left-foot strike went narrowly wide.
Three minutes later, Rabiu Ali was played through on goal but he was flagged off for offside with just the keeper to beat.
Benin went close from another set play in the 20 minutes but goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa made a very good save on the line.
In the 25th minute, another dangerous free-kick was floated into the Nigerian box, once again a Beninoise player who was left unmarked jumped the highest to direct his header just wide of target.
Kingsley Eduwo had a chance to open the scoring for Nigeria on 28 minutes but the Benin keeper was quickly off his line and cleared the ball away to safety.
With just two minutes left in the first half, Ali almost gave Nigeria the lead only to see his left-foot shot blocked away for a corner.
In the 52nd minute, Thomas Zenke was presented with a big chance inside the box following a knockdown but unbelievably miscued.
Benin continued to threaten from set plays and were almost rewarded in the 65th minute only for the chance to go begging again.
The home team went close again in the 84th minute but Ezenwa went down quickly to stop a goal-bound low drive close to the Eagles box.
The deadlock was eventually broken in the 89th minute following a penalty converted by Mama who sent Ezenwa the wrong way after Aremu committed a foul inside Nigeria’s box.