Former African champions, Enyimba FC on Sunday defeated arch rivals, Rivers United 1-0 in the first leg of the ongoing CAF Confederation Cup playoff decided at the Aba Township stadium.
Although the ‘Peoples Elephants’ were reduced to 10-men in the 75th minute, they stood firm to pick the crucial victory.
The clash between two of Nigeria’s arguably best teams of the moment was disrupted with only 10 minutes played by a heavy down pour.
Algerian centre referee Mehdi Abid Chidef who had earlier called off the game recalled both teams to continue play after assessing the state of the Aba Stadium turf.
When play resumed, Imo Obot’s free kick caused problems in Rivers United box but they succeeded in getting the ball out before their danger man Godwin Aguda’s effort was cleared at the other end.
Towards the end of the half, Enyimba’s big moment came as Austin Oladapo’s vicious free kick forced Theophilus Afelokahi into a save and the resultant corner kick was narrowly headed wide by Tosin Omoleye.
Enyimba ended the half the stronger of the two and on resumption, they continued to pile pressure on Rivers United defence and their efforts paid off in the 59th minute when Cyril Olisema gave them the lead.Then came the straight red card for Omoleye in the 75th to reduce Enyimba’s attacking force.
However, the ‘People’s elephants’ inspired by captain Oladapo held on to take the first leg advantage.
Rivers United who put up a good fight in Aba still have a chance to reach the group stage when they host Enyimba in the return leg on February 21 in Port-Harcourt.
The loss in Aba has denied Rivers United a N20 million bonus promised the team by The state’s chief executive.
The reverse fixture next week in Port Harcourt promises to be a winner takes all.
The overall winners of this matchup will advance to the money-spinning stage of the Confederation Cup.
FATAI OSHO’S POST MATCH COMMENTS
“It is okay for us bearing in mind that we had to play for sometime with a man short and at that time we were leading, it was quite important we protected that lead because if we don’t concede it’s also a plus for us. For the boys to show such resilience and even with that you could see us going on breaks to get more goals.
“It’s not really a bad result bearing in mind the standard of this Rivers United team. They have a formidable team and I believe strongly that after this two-legged affair both teams will gain a lot from this playing in the NPFL.
“We knew they would be coming for a war like that and they have what it takes to fight anybody, and we’re not disappointed with what they exhibited.
We knew we had to work so hard coming up against them and the players realised it. You can see what turned out on that pitch. This is really really good for the NPFL, to promote the NPFL. This is top class performance.”