By Richard Jideaka in Kano:
Nigeria’s home-based Super Eagles have qualified for the 2018 Africa Nations Championship (CHAN) in Kenya after defeating Benin Republic 2-0 in the second leg of the play-offs inside the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano to advance 2-1 on aggregate, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
Goals from homeboy Kano Pillars star Rabiu Ali and Kingsley Eduwo in the first half and second half respectively sealed the CHAN spot for Nigeria.
Nigeria made their intentions known from the third minute as Osas Okoro drilled in a free-kick which was cleared away by the Benin defence.
Benin were awarded a free-kick following an Ifeanyi Ifeanyi foul on Bah Yere but Degnon Koukpo could not finish off Seibou Mama’s set piece.
In the 17th minute, Kingsley Eduwo connected with Okoro’s cross but his effort was too weak to trouble the Beninoise keeper.
Nigeria continued to press and were close again in the 21st minute through Eduwo whose shot off Ali’s pass went off target.
The breakthrough goal eventually came in the 22nd minute as Ali finished off Ibrahim Alhassan’s assist.
Nigeria should have doubled their lead on 33 minutes after they were awarded a free-kick close to Benin’s box but Okoro’s strike came off the wall.
In the 41st minute, Chima Akas sent in a dangerous cross which unfortunately evaded everyone inside the Beninoise box.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, Stephen Odey won a free-kick in a very good position for Nigeria but Akas’ effort came off the upright.
In the 47th minute, Nigeria went 2-0 up thanks to Eduwo who flung himself at Okoro’s cross to head home.
Eduwo almost turned provider as he scooped the ball over the Benin defence to pick out Odey but the visitor’s keeper quickly gathered.
Just like in the first leg Benin were awarded a penalty in the 63rd minute after the referee penalised Stephen Eze for stopping a goal bound shot with his hand but Ikechukwu Ezenwa saved the spot kick.
Sikiru Olatunbosun who came on as a second half substitute almost extended Nigeria’s lead in the 71st minute but the Beninoise keeper stopped his shot before Odey was flagged for offside.
Late in the game Nigeria won a free-kick in a good position but Okoro’s effort was cleared away to safety.