By Harry Awurumibe, Editor, Abuja Bureau
For Paul (Eberechukwu) Onuachu, his 93rd minute goal which gave Nigeria’s Super Eagles all three points at stake in the Match Day 5 of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier tie against Benin Republic’s Squirrels on Saturday could not have come at a better time.
The lanky KRC Genk of Belgium leaque topscorer headed in a rebound ball into the net in the added time of the match played at the Charles de Gaulle Stadium in Porto Novo to record his second but important goal in the colours of Nigeria.
Aside being the only goal of the encounter, the goal also ended Benin Republic’s 17 home games unbeaten run, spanning eight years since 2013.
But the most interesting story of Onuachu’s goal in Porto Novo was the history behind his appearance in the match as he was not originally invited for the tie by Nigeria’s Technical Adviser, Gernot Rohr. It is like the proverbial rejected stone that became the cornerstone of the building.
The Franco- German coach had left out Onuachu in his original list of 24 players when he released the list of players to play the two AFCON qualifier matches against Benin Republic and Lesotho in Lagos on March 30.
Rohr had on March 9 consigned Onuachu to a “Second Class” player, listing him alongside home-based players in his “Standby List”. Others in the list are Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray FC, Turkey); Peter Olayinka (Slavia Praha, Czech Republic); Terem Moffi (FC Lorient, France); Michael Olise (Reading FC, England) and Adekunle Adeleke (Abia Warriors).
No sooner than the list was made public than football enthusiasts and critics went to town to denounce Rohr for relegating Nigeria’s most prolific striker home and abroad this season to the background.
They argued that Onuachu who has banged in 27 goals for Genk this season deserved to be invited ahead some of the invitees whose goal-scoring records for clubs cannot match Onuachu’s.
Providence however smiled on Onuachu whose middle name is Eberechukwu meaning (Grace or Mercy of God) as some of the invited players by Rohr withdrew from the two matches and the coach reluctantly invited him to fill the gab.
In Porto Novo, Rohr expectedly benched Onuachu until the match was few minutes to the end when the “Lion” was unleashed from the chain and he did not stay long on the pitch before he hit the “bull’s eyes” with his trademark headed goal in the stoppage time to shame his critics.
It is now on record that Onuachu who scored the fastest goal for Super Eagles in his debute match, a 10 Seconds goal versus Egypt in Asaba, Delta State in 2019 has also scored a 93rd minute goal versus Benin Republic in Porto Novo on Saturday.
Prompt News can confirm that Rohr can no longer ignore the potentials of Onuachu and his ability to lead Super Eagles’ charge if the gaffer will not anger his employers, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and millions of soccer-crazy Nigerian fans who are well informed of Nigerian players doing great in their clubs both at home and abroad.