Sunday’s African Football League match between Enyimba and Wydad Casablanca, visitors from Morocco, ended in a 1-0 loss for the Nigerian team due to a reckless challenge by custodian Olorunleke Ojo.
Wydad captain Yahya Jabrane scored the penalty kick in the 39th minute after captain Ojo fouled Ayoub el Amloud, ending the first leg of the quarterfinal in the southeast city of Uyo.
Former African champions Enyimba were aided by midfielder Ikenna Cooper’s halftime substitution, and 16-year-old Daniel Daga nearly gave them a point midway through the second half.
Alalibo Somiari fouled Montasser Lahtimi, the final defender, and a VAR check turned his original yellow card into a red one, bringing Enyimba down to 10 men in added time.
Wydad will play the rematch on Wednesday. They are strong favourites to win the game and advance to the semifinals, where they will face either Esperance from Tunisia or TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Wydad has been a standout performer in Africa for some now, having advanced to four of the previous seven CAF Champions League finals and taken home two titles.
Enyimba was ousted in a preliminary qualifier this season and has not been able to secure any further African trophy since winning back-to-back Champions League titles in 2003.
With only one goal on target out of 20 efforts at goal, coach Finidi George—a 1995 UEFA Champions League winner with Ajax Amsterdam—faces a formidable task from his players.
Meanwhile, Mazembe, five-time African champions, put aside a troubled build-up to edge Esperance 1-0 in the Tanzanian city of Dar es Salaam.
Malian Cheick Fofana scored the lone goal on 11 minutes, powerfully heading a cross into the six-yard box past goalkeeper and fellow 19-year-old Amanallah Memmich.
Mazembe, who are based in the southern city of Lubumbashi, forfeited home advantage after Congolese custom officials refused to allow CAF equipment into the country.
The decision infuriated Mazembe officials, who said the “inexplicable” decision had lessened their hopes of advancing to the semi-finals of the new competition.
In other first legs, Simba of Tanzania drew 2-2 at home to Al Ahly of Egypt on Friday and South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns triumphed 2-0 at Petro Luanda of Angola on Saturday.
The AFL underwent a name change several months ago from CAF Africa Super League amid fears the original title might be linked with the failed 2021 attempt to form a European Super League.
Initially a 24-club, 197-fixture tournament culminating in a single-match final, it was reduced to eight teams with three, two-leg knock-out rounds due to limited sponsorship.
Prize money has been severely reduced with the winners set to pocket $4 million — $7.5 mn less than first planned.
Additional reports from AFP