Super Eagles began their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign on a winning note as the team defeated the Squirrels of Benin 2-1 at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium on Wednesday.
Nigeria was given an early scare as the Squirrels of Benin took the lead in the third minute through Stephane Sessegnon’s goal to silenced the vociferous home supporters.
The three-time Africa champions could have leveled parity in the 10th and 13th minutes but Alex Iwobi and Victor Osimhen failed to make the goal-scoring chances count for the team.
Despite controlling more of the possession, the Squirrels’ defensive organization prevented the Super Eagles from threatening their goalkeeper.
Samuel Chukwueze almost equalized for Nigeria in the 44th minute but his shot was well saved by the Benin goalkeeper.
Nigeria’s efforts were finally rewarded in the 45th minute when the center referee awarded a penalty to the team after Ola Aina was pulled down in the 18’yard box. The resulting penalty was converted by Osimhen.
At the resumption of the second half, Nigeria continued to pile more pressure and was later rewarded as Samuel Kalu dribbled pass three goalkeepers before slotting the ball home for Super Eagles’ second goal in the 63rd minute.
Osimhen had the opportunity to double his goal but his shot hit the side of the woodwork to the dismay of the home fans.
However, in the 78th minute, the Squirrels of Benin could have leveled the score but the ball also hit the top of the bar.
All attempts for the visitors to equalize proved abortive as the Super Eagles earned the maximum point.
Super Eagles Players Ratings
Daniel Akpeyi – 6: Was made the number one goalkeeper ahead of Maduka Okoye and Ikechukwu Ezenwa by Super Eagles technical adviser, Gernot Rohr and made some brilliant saves. Can’t be held responsible for Benin’s opening goal.
Ola Aina – 6: Always at his best mettle as he controlled the left-full back with his pace and attacking instinct that gave the Benin defender some moments of nightmare. Aina’s positive play up front earned the Super Eagles a penalty after he was fouled by a Benin defender.
Jamiu Collins – 6: Had a decent game for the team even though he could have done better to prevent Sessegnon from scoring the opener. However, he was able to regain his confidence and combined perfectly with William Troost-Ekong.
Wilfred Ndidi – 6.5: He may be frustratingly quiet in some matches, but he always seems to turn up on the biggest occasions. Ndidi was magnificent in midfield, showing some beautiful touches, excelling in tight spaces and bullying Benin’s players. Played a key role in ensuring that the team picked up the three points.
Troost Ekong – 6.5: Despite failing to stop Benin’s early goal, the Udinese defender was dominant aerially, calm in possession and marshaled the troops expertly. Matched the bullying nature of Sessegnon throughout the entire 90 minutes.
Semi Ajayi – 6: Had a decent game against the Squirrels of Benin and prevented the Beninouse wing-back from making any darting runs.
Iwobi – 5: Yet to make himself a player the Super Eagles could rely on in terms of creating goal-scoring chances. Iwobi was culpable for some of the loose balls that the team had against the Benin Republic. The Everton forward failed to make any meaning impact and should have been substituted.
Joe Aribo 6.5: One of the rising stars of the Super Eagles, Aribo once again proved his worth in the team, bulldozing his way in the heart of the midfield and creating chances for fellow teammates.
Samuel Kalu – 7: Had a brilliant encounter against Benin as his solo run-pass three Squirrels defenders ensured Nigeria extend their lead. Confidence with the ball and always ready to dribble pass any players that come his way.
Samuel Chukwueze – 6: Was quite in the first half as the Beninous marked him tightly. However, he was able to lift his game in the second half with his darting runs and dribbles.
Victor Osimhen – 7: Excellent with the ball and converted the penalty that leveled parity for the team in the first half.
Awaziem – 4: Had little time to contribute his quota in the game.
Moses Simon – 4: Had little time to contribute his quota in the game.
Musa – 4: Had little time to contribute his quota in the game.