A goal deep into stoppage time by striker Wasiu Alalade gave Enyimba a 1-0 win over Congolese side; Club Athletique Renaissance Aiglons (CARA) Brazzaville on their return to their traditional home in Aba.
The substitute scored with virtually the last kick of the game to give the People’s Elephant a deserved victory which sent them to the top of the group, earning a knock-out berth in a CAF competition for the first time in nine years.
Enyimba retained the same starting lineup which defeated Malian side Djoliba 1-0 in their last group game in Bamako, retaining the attacking duo of Abdulrahman Bashir and Sunday Adetunji who made his home debut for the former African champions.
The Usman Abdallah-led Enyimba dominated the opening half but failed to have a breakthrough, with captain Mfon Udoh twice denied by CARA goalkeeper Chancel Mchikola. The Congolese were further spared when centre back Guy Chancy Danga cleared off the line after Adetunji’s header beat Mchikola.
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Clear-cut chances were few and far between for the hosts in the second half in spite of their continued dominance. The breakthrough eventually came in stoppage time when Alalade prodded home a rebound after Udoh’s free kick came off the cross bar.
Left-back Ikouwem Utin impressed once again, earning a Man-of-the-Match review as Enyimba thrilled their fans with what they have been missing for close to three years in the commercial city. Wednesday’s game was Enyimba’s first at their home turf since a league game in November 2015.
Consequent upon the win, Enyimba finish top of the group with twelve points, three ahead of CARA who stay second after Williamsville AC were held goalless at home by already eliminated Djoliba in Abidjan.
“We are very happy for the win. We played against a difficult team and we knew they would be difficult, so we prepared for that,” Enyimba coach Abdallah told www.aclsports.com after the game.
“We have never had the kind of support we had today in our previous matches so it is obvious that returning to our real home also played a part in the victory,” he added.
Enyimba will find out their quarter-final opponent next Monday when the Confederation of African Football (CAF) hold the draws for the two continental tournaments in Cairo, Egypt.