Abdelilah Hafidi’s strike early in the second half was enough to hand Raja Casablanca a massive advantage in their CAF Confederation Cup semi-final tie with Enyimba as the Moroccans ran out 1-0 winners in the first leg match on Wednesday.
Hafidi slotted between goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai’s legs three minutes after the break when Zakaria Hadraf cut back for him after full back Andrew Abalogu mistimed his jump for a defensive header.
The win handed Raja only their second away win in this year’s Confederation Cup, the first coming in the quarter-final against CARA Brazzaville while Enyimba lost in Aba on the continent for the first time since March 2014.
The North Africans started the game without their two highest scorers in this year’s tournament; Mahmoud Benhalib and Mouhcine Iajour, both players named on the substitutes bench amidst reports that the former was injured in their training session on Tuesday.
Neither striker was needed though as Juan Carlos Garrido’s men controlled the game for larger spells, the 1-0 scoreline flattering their hosts with Hadraf the tormentor-in-chief.
Enyimba were handed a good chance to draw level just after the hour mark when defender Sand Masaud was adjudged to have handled Stanley Dimgba’s effort. The winger could however not keep his composure from twelve yards as he blazed the penalty over the bar.
Goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai was replaced by Ikechukwu Ezenwa in the second half while Raja introduced the much dreaded Iajour as the game opened up late on.
Goalscorer Hafidi who made way for Iajour was on Tuesday called up into the Atlas Lions squad for their upcoming 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against the Comoros Islands – the only Raja player in Herve Renard’s squad.
Enyimba coach Usman Abdallah attributed his team’s loss to fatigue after his side played four competitive games in the past ten days.
Enyimba now have a mountain to climb when they face Raja Casablanca in the return leg billed for the Mohammed V Stadium in Casablanca on Wednesday October 25.