Enyimba let Nigeria down with CAF Champions League exit

Enyimba let Nigeria down with CAF Champions League exit
Credit: Icon Sport

Enyimba of Aba has crashed out at the first stage of the CAF Champions League after a barren draw in the return leg against Al Ahly Benghazi.

The People’s Elephant had given its fans hope of progressing to the next round of the competition after an exciting first leg against the Libyans.

Though they lost the game 4-3, succumbing to a last-minute goal, there were signs that Enyimba would get the job done in Aba. With everything put in place and vociferous support expected from the home fans, it looked like getting just a goal would not be an arduous task for Enyimba.

Al Ahly Benghazi had served notice of the defending their hosts should expect in the first leg, and they worked it to perfection in Aba. They frustrated every effort by Enyimba in the first half.

A barren first half

Enyimba finds Al Ahly Beghazi a hard nut to crack
Credit: Icon Sport

The task was obvious for Enyimba. A 1-0 win against the North Africans would suffice. There was confidence that they could get the job done, especially after the attacking inferno that was the first leg.

There was not much to cheer until the 12th minute when Joseph Atule unleashed a shot that went straight at the goalkeeper. It was not the sort of game Aba fans had come to see.

Al Ahly Benghazi was determined to frustrate the People’s Elephant, and their plan was working to the hilt. Al Ahly Benghazi stuck to their game plan, and it was not until the 20th minute before Enyimba could create another chance.

Joseph Atule set Murphy Ndukwu on a break, but his efforts could only find the side net.

Four minutes after Murphy's effort, Ekwutoziam went into the referee’s book for an overzealous tackle. 

The frustration was starting to get to Enyimba. Mbaoma had another chance in the 35th minute, but his efforts could only find the side of the net.

Enyimba continued to pile on the pressure on the Al Ahly Benghazi defence, but they were holding out well. Despite all efforts to break the deadlock, the first half ends in a stalemate.

Enyimba fails to score in the second half

Enyimba cannot get past Al Ahly Benghazi
Credit: Icon Sport

The second half saw the People’s Elephant in a make-or-mar situation. They needed a goal at all costs to advance to the next round, but the visitors kept to their game plan of frustrating their hosts.

Atule was perhaps the only one trying to get things to work for Enyimba. He came close in the 51st minute. He picked the ball at the edge of the box, but his shot missed the target by whiskers.

At the other end, Olorunleke Ojo, who had been idle, was called into action by the visitors, but he made a fantastic save to keep Enyimba in the game.

In the 61st minute, George Finidi had seen enough. He hauled off Ekene Awazie for George Owen. The substitution did not yield the expected results, and he made another substitution in the 72nd minute.

Anthony Okachi and Eriugo Adiele came on to replace Mbaoma and Ndukwu.

With time running out for Enyimba, they became frantic. George Owen saw his 75th-minute effort race across the face of goal.

With 90 minutes played and still a stalemate, the desperation by the home side was at a fever pitch. Six minutes of added time did not produce any goals.

With this result, Enyimba crashed out of the 2023/24 CAF Champions League, leaving a disappointed fan base.

Enyimba: 12 Olorunleke Ojo (GK), 25 Somiari Alalibo, 26 Chikamso Okechukwu, 24 Chigozie Chilekwu, 33 Uwana Asuquo, Eze Ekwutoziam, 32 Murphy Ndukwu, 22 Ikenna Cooper, 30 Ekene Awazie, 7 Joseph Atule, 15 Chijioke Mbaoma

Subs: 2 Bilal Yakubu, 8 George Owen 13 Anthony Okachi, 34 Eriugo Adiele, 5 Innocent Gabriel, 3 Ini Edem, 27 Chibuike Nwaiwu, 31 Tijani Kabiru, 35 Henry Ani (GK)

This article was most recently revised and updated 8 months ago

Chooka Izuegbuna is a Sports Journalist with 20 years of experience in print, TV and Radio. He has worked with some of the top media houses in Nigeria, including NTA Network, Channels TV, TVC, Silverbird TV and MITV. Chooka broke his sports reporting teeth with The Game Football Weekly in 2003 as a cartoonist and reporter.