2021 AFCON: Onuachu Scores As Eagles Defeat Squirrel To Confim Group L Leadership
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By Amaechi Agbo
European highest goal scorer with 27, Paul Onuachu of Genk in Belgium League Saturday continued his goal scoring prowess after he scored the lone goal to had Nigeria all-three points against Benin Republic in Pot Novo.
Although Nigeria has booked their place in the 2021 biennial event in Cameroun before the kick-off of the match after Sierra Leone held Lesotho to a barren draw, the Eagles needed a win against the Squirrels to confirm their leadership of the group.
This, Onuachu ensured was achieved after he scored in the added time to break the backline if the stubborn Squirrels in a match the host was majorly on the back pedal.
The Eagles thus maintained their leadership of Group L with 11 points, while Benin remained in second place on seven points.
Third-place Sierra Leone have four points, with bottom side Lesotho amassing three points.
The victory meant that the Eagles ended Benin’s eight-year unbeaten home record, which stretched back to 2013.
It was also the Eagles’ first victory in over a year – spanning four games – after they defeated Lesotho 4-2 on match-day 2 of the AFCON qualifiers in November 2019.
The Eagles needed just a point from their final two qualifiers to seal a place at the AFCON, but they eventually qualified before the kick-off, after Lesotho and Sierra Leone played a goalless draw at the Setsoto Stadium in Lesotho.
They started the game brightly and almost got rewarded in the third minute, before a frantic clearance by the Benin defence.
Squirrels’ Saturnin Allagbe was the busier of the two goalkeepers and had to make another fantastic save from a goal-bound shot from Kelechi Iheanacho in the seventh minute.
The Eagles continued to press forward but were unable to find the breakthrough.
Henry Onyekuru agonisingly watched his goal-bound header saved by Allagbe, after a brilliant cross from FC Porto’s Zaidu Sanusi on the stroke of half time.
The Eagles continued to dominate after the break and Napoli striker Victor Osimhen almost broke the deadlock in the 56th minute, but his low shot hit the inside of the upright with Allagbe beaten.
Zaidu should have done better, but blasted the rebound wide.
The Eagles’ appeals for a penalty after a handball incident inside the Benin box were turned down in the 80th minute by the referee Redouane Jiyed.
But the three-time African champions’ dominance finally paid off with just seconds left after the three additional minutes. Allagbe made another fantastic save to keep out the ball, after Osimhen rose highest to nod a corner from Samuel Chukwueze, but substitute Onuachu, who came on for Iheanacho in the 69th minute, pounced on the rebound to score with the last kick of the game.
The Eagles return to Lagos on Sunday (today) for their final qualifier against Lesotho at the Teslim Balogun Stadium.
Additional Report By Punch