BENGUELA: Yakubu Aiyegbeni revived Nigeria s hopes of reaching the African Cup of Nations quarterfinals, scoring a penalty in a 1-0 win over Benin in Group C on Saturday.
Nigeria, which has qualified for the World Cup in June, secured its first victory in the continental tournament following a 3-1 loss to Egypt.
Nigeria now has three points from two games and can still reach the knockout phase.
We expected a tough game but this has helped to build our confidence, Nigeria coach Shaibu Amodu said. The good side is that we showed our experience. We had to be cautious and guard against any mistakes because they were capable of punishing us.
Six-time champion Egypt plays Mozambique in the other Group C game later Saturday.
Amodu made several changes from the team that lost 3-1 to Egypt, dropping Taye Taiwo and Obinna Nwaneri to give starts to Elderson Echiejile and Peter Odemwingie.
Having recovered from flu, Odemwingie created Nigeria s first chance, forcing a corner with a deflected shot in the 8th minute while Benin went close through Seidath Tchomogo s low right-footed shot in the 11th.
Ayegbeni should have put Nigeria ahead in the 15th minute after collecting a through pass from Dickson Ethuhu but the Everton striker pulled the ball just wide of the left post.
Benin s hopes to progress in the tournament took a blow in the 26th minute when Stephane Sessegnon was booked for a foul on Ayegbeni, meaning that he will miss his team s last group game.
Nigeria took the upper hand towards the end of the first half but were lucky not to go behind when Sessegnon s 30-meter shot struck the bar in the 39th minute.
The difference between the dream and reality for us was the crossbar, Benin coach Michel Dussuyer said.
Two minutes later, Nigeria was awarded a penalty when Romuald Boco handballed Odemwingie s header in the box and Ayegbeni converted the spotkick to give his side the lead.
Bolton defender Danny Shittu went close with a 25-meter strike after the interval but Benin goalkeeper Rashad Chitou parried the ball away with a good save.
Benin were unlucky not to salvage at least a draw from the game when Nouhoum Kobena s powerful shot struck the crossbar. -AP