Abuja – Hosts Republic of Benin on Sunday pipped CHAN Eagles 1-0 courtesy of a late penalty goal in a first leg final playoff of the African Championship of Nations (CHAN).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Zone B first-leg encounter took place at the Stade de l’Amitié in the country’s capital city, Cotonou.
The match saw Benin skipper Mama Seibou converting a penalty in the 88th minute after Afeez Aremu needlessly fouled inside his box to hand the Beninoise a slight advantage going into the second leg.
The hosts dominated the first half as they overran the CHAN Eagles in the middle of the park, but they could not translate such dominance into goals.
The Eagles looked content to absorb the pressure in the early stages of the game but ended the first half stronger, carving some chances and causing panic in the hosts’ vital area.
However, the start to the second half was different from the first as the Nigerians showed more desire, with Kingsley Eduwo testing the Beninoise goalkeeper and generally troubled the Beninoise defence.
The Eagles struggled on a very terrible pitch but continued to press the hosts as MFM FC striker Stephen Odey came in for Thomas Zenke and Alhassan Ibrahim replaced Rabiu Ali before the hour mark in a tactical substitution.
The MFM combination of Sikiru Olatunbosun and Odey began to cause the home team trouble as Olatunbosun came close to giving Nigeria the lead in the 65th minute.
Benin also had a chance of their own in the 84th minute but goalkeeper Okechukwu Ezenwa did well to save a low shot as the hosts began to pour forward in search of a goal.
However, with just few minutes to full time, Nigeria’s hesitant defending presented the home team a lifeline via a penalty and they gladly made the most of it to hand them a slight advantage going into the reverse clash.
The reverse fixture will be played next weekend at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano.
The 2018 CHAN will be hosted by Kenya and is scheduled to take place between Jan. 11 and Feb. 2 2018.
It will be the 5th edition of the African Nations Championship, a biennial football tournament organised by the African Football Confederation (CAF) and exclusively featuring players from the respective national leagues. (NAN)