Nigeria’s Super Eagles opened their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Benin on Wednesday evening in Uyo.
Former West Brom star Stephane Sessegnon gave the visitors a shock lead in the second minute but a first half stoppage time penalty by Victor Osimhen and Samuel Kalu’s brilliant goal in the second half wrapped up the win for Gernot Rohr’s men.
Nigeria head coach Gernt Rohr made three changes to the team that drew 1-1 against Brazil last month, the German restored winger Samuel Kalu and Ola Aina to the starting lineup with Daniel Akpeyi making a return in goal.
The Super Eagles however made a worst possible start to the game when Sessegnon guided home a low cross from Joel Dossou after the winger had left Jamilu Collins in his trail.
As expected, Nigeria poured forward in search of an equaliser but right back Ola Aina was denied by goalkeeper Fabien Farnolle in the 14th minute before Samuel Chukwueze hit the frame of the post with five minutes left in the half.
Nigeria however got a respite on the dot of half time when they were awarded a penalty after Aina was upended inside the penalty box. Osimhen emphatically dispatched from twelve yards, beyond the despairing hands of Farnolle.
The goal looked to energise the three-time African champions in the second half. Farnolle kept the scoreline level into the hour mark by denying decent efforts by Joe Aribo and Osimhen.
The Yeni Malatyaspor goalkeeper could however do nothing to stop what turned out to be Nigeria’s winner in the 62nd minute.
Winger Kalu picked the ball up in the Benin half, beat up to four defenders on a file before hitting a ferocious effort into the bottom left corner from 20 yards to send the 18,659 fans at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo into raptures.
With the substitutions rolling in, Benin almost secured an incredulous equaliser when the Nigeria defence went to sleep. Mickael Pote’s effort came off the cross bar after Kalu gave the ball away in the midfield area.
Rohr then looked to add defensive solidity to his side’s play when he replaced overlapping full back, Aina with Chidozie Awaziem while Moses Simon replaced goalscorer Kalu.
Nigeria’s second group game will be against Lesotho in Maseru on Sunday.
Nigeria XI vs Benin
Akpeyi; Ola Aina (Awaziem 74′) Ekong, Ajayi, Collins; Ndidi, Aribo, Iwobi; Chukwueze, Osimhen (Ahmed Musa 86′), Kalu (Moses Simon 77′)