Emmanuel James was the saviour as Nigerian champions, Plateau United narrowly defeated USM Alger 2-1 in their CAF Confederation Cup match on Saturday at the Soccer Temple, Agege, Lagos.
King Osanga gave United a first half lead, before USM equalised in the second half through a lovely left footed strike from Abdela Doul.
But James came off the bench to second the decisive goal in the second half to give Plateau a narrow lead heading into the final qualification second leg game in Algeria.
After a very cagey start to the game, with both sides struggling to get a foothold on the game, Osanga broke the deadlock to put the host 1-0 up.
Amaefule Chizoba floated a cross from the right win, which Osanga heads into an empty net to put his side head.
United came close to a second, but Zema Mounne, in goal for the away side was alert to deny Tosin Omoleye’s well taken header.
USM had a chance of their own to draw level just before the break, but a tame header was easily collected United’s goalkeeper, Dele Ajiboye.
The home side went into the break well worthy of their lead, but well aware the game was far from over.
After the restart, it was the visitors who started the brightest, with United pinned back in their own half.
The Algerians were dangerous with their set plays, and came close to an equaliser after an excellent delivery from the left came off the post, with Ajiboye well beaten.
They were getting closer, and finally found the equaliser. A poor clearance by Ajiboye sees the Algerians exchange some neat passes before Doul left the goalkeeper dead with a brilliant left footed finish to make it 1-1.
Poor clearance from Ajiboye sees a lovely interchange of passes from the Algerians, and Doul's left footed effort leaves Ajiboye begging for his dear life.
— ACLSports (@acl_sports) April 7, 2018
Having equalised, the away side began to dictate proceedings, as they looked more relaxed after that goal.
With the away side asking questions of United’s defense, Kennedy Boboye responded by making a tactical substitution. Peter Eneji on for Ibeh Johnson.
Eneji almost made an immediate impact, but Mounne continued his brilliance for USM, stopping Eneji’s effort with a low save.
That substitution seemed to renew United, who regained some composure, and had a golden opportunity to restore their lead but Salomon Junior misses from six yards out with the net at his mercy.
Jimmy Ambrose also came close, before the home side made a second change, with James replacing Omoleye.
Within a minute of coming on, James repays his manager’s faith, as he puts United back ahead at 2-1, with 15minutes left to play.
75' GOAL. PLATEAU UNITED 2-1 USM Alger #CAFCC. Emma James puts Plateau back in front.
— League Management NG (@LMCNPFL) April 7, 2018
USM responded, after going behind for the second time, making a double change, Ardji and Meziane on for Yaya and Ben Moussa respectively. However, their impact was hardly felt.
The home side needed more goals, and well aware of this, they went in search for a third, but met a wall in Mounne.
The goalkeeper was outstanding, stopping everything United threw at him late on to keep his side still in the game.
At the end, a deserved win for United, albeit a narrow one, heading into the second leg ten days later.
Plateau United 2-1 USM Alger