Enyimba goalkeeper John Noble caught two penalty kicks and scored the winning spot kick to fire the People’s Elephant 5-4 on penalties past Rivers United into the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt on Sunday.
Enyimba entered the encounter having won the first leg 1-0 a week earlier, but Rivers United tied the score 1-1 on aggregate after Fortune Omoniwari’s 43rd minute strike.
Winger Omoniwari tucked home a rebound after Noble had parried Malachi Ohawume’s effort inside the box.
The tie went straight into penalties after 90 minutes and Noble first saved from Kunle Odunlami, Rivers third kick, after Enyimba’s first by Cyril Olisema was stopped by Theophilus Afelokhai, in goal for the hosts.
Noble then turned hero when he saved from Israel Emmanuel in sudden death, before calmly slotting home, sending Afelokhai the wrong way, to send his side to the group stage of the competition.
With the win, Enyimba have now progressed to the group stage on the continent in each of their last four appearances in CAF competitions.
It was always going to be a tension-packed tie following the historical rivalry between both sides. And two-time African champions Enyimba set the tone when they petitioned the Confederation of African Football of plans by the hosts to employ thugs to intimidate them ahead of the game.
Following the tension generated by the petition, CAF classified the match as “high risk.”
However, the Pride of Rivers showed an early intent of progressing to the group stage in the first minute as Omoniwari beautifully beat his marker, but his attempt was punched out by Noble, who went on to make several saves in the game.
The People’s Elephant also didn’t sit back and defend their 1-0 advantage, with Kadiri Samad hitting the woodwork in the 16th minute, while Afelokhai made a fabulous point-blank save to deny Olisema in the 34th minute.
Meanwhile, Enyimba, CAF Champions League winners in 2003 and 2004, will know their group opponents Monday (today) when the draws for the group stage of the Confederation Cup holds in Cairo, Egypt.
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