Alalade takes Enyimba to semifinals

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• Cara also qualify as Williamsville draw in Abidjan
The elements almost succeeded in their plot to deny Enyimba fans the chance to celebrate their darling team’s first game at home in four years. But at the end, the supporters, in their thousands, danced out of the stadium dreaming of another glorious year in African football.

Enyimba have not won any continental trophy since they took the more prestigious CAF Champions League back to back in 2003 and 2004.Yesterday’s match was the last group game of the 2018 CAF Confederation Cup and Enyimba needed an outright victory to ensure passage to the semifinals.

The Peoples Elephant and their opponents, CARA Brazzaville, as well as Cote d’Ivoire’s Williamsville were tied on six points with only goals difference separating the trio.As it were, Cara were on top of the table, with Enyimba second, while Williamsville were on the third spot. A draw would have favoured Cara with Enyimba’s fate resting on the outcome of the second game between Wiliamsville and whipping team, Djoliba of Mali.

Everybody expected Williamsville to beat Djoliba and so it was up to Enyimba to secure the win in Aba that would take them to the semifinals alongside the Ivoirians. But the expectations almost turned to a nightmare, when the much sought after winning goal refused to come even after 90 minutes. And then up popped Wasiu Alalade four minutes after the regulation time. His was the goal that took the Peoples Elephant to the semifinals.

Perhaps, if Enyimba fans had the hindsight they would not have been so worried as Djoliba caused the biggest upset of the night when they held Williamsville to a goalless draw in Abidjan. Enyimba had the better of the encounter, with Augustine Oladapo sending the fans out of their seats after just three minutes with a pile drive that narrowly missed the target.

Ten minutes later, it was Stanley Dimgba’s turn to set the fans’ heartbeat racing with a blinder from 20 yards, which the CARA goalkeeper miraculously saved.The Congolese appeared prepared to soak in the pressure and hit Enyimba on the counter. And they almost got the breakthrough 30 minutes into play when Ngoma Mbo came face to face with Enyimba goalkeeper, Theophilus Afelokhai, but the former Kano Pillars’ star stood his ground to keep scores 0-0. The first half ended goalless.

Enyimba continued their dominance of the game in the second half, but the strikers failed to get the much sought after break through until the 94th minute, when Alalade sent the fans singing with his golden strike.The victory took Enyimba to the top of Group C and passage to the semifinals, where they were joined by CARA Brazzaville, who qualified due to Williamsville’s goalless draw with Djoliba in Abidjan.