Paul Onuachu’s late goal assist Super Eagles end Benin’s unbeaten home run since 2013 with a 1-0 win in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers on Saturday.
The loss dent Squirrels’ qualification hopes as they need to avoid defeat against third-placed Sierra Leone when they meet on Tuesday.
Earlier before Saturday’s meeting in Porto-Novo, the Super Eagles seal their qualification for next year’s tournament in Cameroon after Sierra Leone played to a 0-0 draw with Lesotho.
The last time Benin conceded a home loss was in a World Cup qualifying match against Algeria in 2013 while the Genk star scored his second goal for the Super Eagles since his debut goal against the pharaohs of Egypt two years ago.
Gernot Rohr’s side has strive harder until stoppage-time to beat Dijon’s Beninoise goalkeeper Saturnin Allagbe who was impressive in the match through Onauchu’s header.
The three-time African champions created most of the opportunities in the first half but could not just find the back of the net.
Ola Aina played in a fine cross to Henry Onyekuru who controlled the ball with a pass for Kelechi Iheanacho but the Leicester City star was unlucky with his effort.
Some minutes later, Porto’s Zaidu Sanusi dribbled past Youssouf Assogba to put in a cross to Onyekuru whose shot was well blocked by goalkeeper Allagbe.
While the attacking quartet of Samuel Chukwueze, Victor Osimhen, Onyekuru and Iheanacho strive to give Nigeria the lead in the opening 45 minutes, Benin striker Steve Mounie struggled to break the Super Eagles defence.
It was a lively start to the second 45 minutes and Nigeria started on a promising note with Chukwueze close to finding the back of the net.
Four minutes later, Mounie got two chances within a minute to put Michel Dussuyer’s side ahead but goalkeeper Maduka Okoye was in control.
The home side continued with their crosses and Mounie, in the 62nd minute, made a great leap to connect with Assogba’s cross but his header was put out of danger by Okoye.
Gernot Rohr made his first substitution in the 70th minute with Iheanacho making way for the match winner Onuachu and Benin also had Michael Pote replace Cebio Soukou.
It turned out the German manager actually prepared for a shaky finish to the game with Iwuala close to scoring on his first international debut.
Nigeria are still Group L leaders with 11 points from five unbeaten games while Benin sit second with seven points and Sierra Leone follow in third spot with four points.
Next up for the Super Eagles they meet the already eliminated Lesotho at the Teslim Balogun Stadium for their final qualifying match on Tuesday.