Nigeria began their qualifying campaign for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations with a tense 2-1 win over neighbours Benin in Uyo on Wednesday.
Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr named the same starting lineup as the side that drew with Ukraine in September, save for the return of Kaizer Chiefs’ goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, who replaced the injured Francis Uzoho between the sticks.
It was the visitors who took a shock lead, however. Winger Joel Dossou skipped past Jamilu Collins all too easily in the second minute, and his low cut-back was turned in by Stephane Sessegnon to stun the home crowd at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium.
Nigeria took a while to get going, but eventually began to find their feet midway through the half. Full-back Ola Aina drew a save from Fabien Farnolle in the Benin goal, before Samuel Chukwueze hit the frame of the goal after good hold-up play by Victor Osimhen.
The breakthrough would eventually come just before half-time, as Aina exchanged passes with Alex Iwobi and was brought down inside the box. Up stepped Victor Osimhen, and his finish from the penalty spot was unerring, tying the score going into the break.
The hosts picked up where they left off in the second half, with both Osimhen and Joe Aribo calling Farnolle into action. They would eventually take the lead for the first time in the game just after the hour mark: a jinking run by Samuel Kalu took him past three defenders, and he whipped a low shot into the bottom corner.
That goal would prove the winner, in spite of some late pressure that saw Benin hit the woodwork late on.
The result puts Nigeria top of the group with three points ahead of the weekend’s trip to face Lesotho in Maseru.