Ejiogu saves Enyimba, Heartland also qualifies
CHIJIOKE Ejiogu was Enyimba’s saving grace yesterday at the Aba Township Stadium, where the Peoples Elephant beat Congo’s Vita FC by 6-5 after a pulsating penalty shootout that saw the Dolphins former goalkeeper saving two spot kicks.
Enyimba lost the first leg in Congo 0-3 and wasted no time in canceling the deficit yesterday in Aba. Uche Kalu began the victory dance in the 29th minute when he converted a spot kick to raise the Aba faithful hopes of a rewarding evening.
The Bussdor former striker made it two in the 49th minute off another spot kick while Junior Osagie completed the comeback in the 70th minute to bring aggregate scores to 3-3. Then off to the spot both teams went to decide the tie. Nnaemeka Anyanwu nearly gave Enyimba’s supporters heartache when he ballooned away his kick to give the advantage to the Congolese.
But Ejiogu stepped up to save the day for the 2003 and 2004 African champions by saving two kicks to end the shootout 6-5, advantage Enyimba.
Meanwhile, in Owerri, last year’s finalist, Heartland, claimed a comfortable 3-1 win over PSL champion, SuperSport United, to reach the CAF Champions League group stages with a 4-2 aggregate win. The Nigerians were favourites to go through after a 1-1 result in the first leg two weeks ago, and SuperSport made matters easier for the hosts by only flying into Owerri from Lagos in the morning of the game.
Heartland wasted little time pressing home the advantage as Emeka Nwanna put it in front after 39 minutes. John Owoeri and Bello Musa Kofarmata added further goals in the five-minute spell as the Naze Millionaires sealed passage to the group stages.
Brian Umony grabbed a late consolation 10 minutes from time, but it was nothing more than that from SuperSport, which dropped down to the Confederation Cup.
In Harare, unfortunately, Nigeria’s other entrant in the Confederation Cup, Warri Wolves, struggled in vain to move to the group stage of the competition as its 0-2 loss to CAPS United ensured its exit from the competition. With the defeat, the coach Lawrence Akpokona-led Wolves crashed out on 3-2 aggregate, having won the first leg 2-1 in Warri two weeks ago.
CAPS United had a field day, dictating the pace right from the blast of the whistle till the end. After surviving what could have been two quick goals in the first three minutes of the game, Wolves managed to push the opponent to its own half, but its attackers’ poor co-ordination robbed it of making head way.
The duo of Fegor Ogude and Ekigho Ehiosun looked ordinary in front of the opponents’ goal mouth, just as the defence line led by Egwuekwe Azubuike was easily penetrated by the CAPS’ attackers, who looked more organised.
CAPS dangerman, Nyasha Mushekwi, scored the first goal for the Zimbabweans when he put the ball on the blind side of goalkeeper Agbim Chigozie. It was the same Mushekwi that scored his team’s lone goal in Warri when both teams met two weeks ago.
With the sign of elimination now steering on their face, Akpokona brought in Akpoveta Oke and Omonigho Temile midway in the second half, but it did not make any difference. In the 56th minute, poor marksmanship in the midfield resulted to the second goal for the host, as unmarked Oscar Machapa headed into the net, with keeper Agbim providing no answer.
Wolves, which is noted for poor away records both in the local league and continental matches, will return to Nigeria later today. The team had lost 0-4 to Kano Pillars few days before its departure to Harare for the match.