Posted by News Express | 21 April 2016 | 3,349 times
Enyimba overcome Etoile Sportive, zoom into Champions League group stage
Nigerian champions, Enyimba, were made to sweat by Etoile Sportive du Sahel in their second leg, second round CAF Champions League game on Wednesday before they could reach the group stage.
The Peoples Elephant had a three-goal advantage going into the tie on the day and looked assured to cruise into the group stage with the Tunisian club faced with a Herculean task of clawing back their way into the game.
Certainly the game-plan by Enyimba to sit back and hit their hosts on the break did not yield the desired outcome as Etoile pinned them in their half and enjoyed larger share of the possession while CAF Champions League top scorer, Mfon Udoh, cut a forlorn figure upfront.
Enyimba goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai had to be on his toes all through and was forced to make a big save midway into the first half.
On 26 minutes, Enyimba head coach Paul Aigbogun was forced to make a substitution as Ikechukwu Ibenegbu suffered a slight injury and motioned to the bench. Kelly Kester was sent on in his place.
Eight minutes to the break, Afelokhai did well to save from an Etoile attack and was again on hand to tip over a corner kick on 40 minutes.
However, Afelokhai had no answer to Hamza Lahmar’s well-struck free kick just two minutes before half time as Etoile began their fightback.
The Peoples Elephant still adopted the same style of play of sitting back in the restart, and it backfired when they were caught watching from a training routine-like free kick, which Acosta headed in past Afelokhai at the far post on 62 minutes.
Etoile continued to press high and poured forward in numbers but kept Enyimba's number 10, Udoh, under close watch to avoid being caught at the back by his pace.
Nineteen minutes to time, Etoile levelled the game on aggregate through Acosta's finish to lead on the day three-nil.
Surprisingly, Enyimba came out of their defensively shell and began a ball-playing style which they had hardly done all through the game before shipping in three goals.
Enyimba could have saved themselves the headache of going into penalty shootout when Christian Pyagbara was played through on goal on 85 minutes with just the Etoile goalkeeper to beat. The striker decided to strike fiercely from close range and missed the target.
The game went straight into penalties after regulation time, and Udoh and Pyagbara missed Enyimba’s opening spot kicks before Afelokhai proved the match-winner with his saves to ensure the Nigerian club progressed 4-3 on penalties.
It is the first time since 2012 that a Nigerian club will reach the CAF Champions League group stage. © supersport.com
•Photo shows Enyimba players celebrating a past victory.
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