Enyimba FC took a slim first-leg advantage to Port Harcourt and weathered the fiercest of storms to make it past the knockout rounds of the Confederations Cup
Enyimba International FC are through to the group stages of the CAF Confederations Cup, beating Rivers United 5-4 on penalties after fighting out a 1-1 aggregate scoreline in regular time.
The eagerly anticipated contest between clubs from cities 64 kilometres apart in southern Nigeria was delicately balanced with two-time African champions Enyimba holding a 1-0 lead over Rivers United.
A Cyril Olisema goal settled a first leg in which Enyimba finished a man short after Tosin Omoyele was red-carded 15 minutes from time.
Rivers United claimed their pound of flesh, though, winning 1-0 at full-time of the return leg thanks to Omoniwari’s strike shortly before the half-time break.
But with aggregate scores stuck at 1-1, the match went straight to penalties.
Goalkeeper John Noble then showed why head coach Fatai Osho preferred him to the older duo of Olufemi Kayode and Bassa Djeri, saving two spot-kicks before converting the winning penalty.
First, the shot-stopper dragged Enyimba back on levelled terms by keeping out Kunle Odunlami’s kick – United’s third – after Olisema had missed Enyimba’s first penalty.
After both sides scored the next two kicks, Nobel came up big again to stop Rivers United’s sixth shot off the boots of Israel.
The 27-year-old goalie then got up, dusted himself, and showed remarkable composure to fire home Enyimba’s last penalty, sending the Aba Elephants into the group stages of the continent’s second most respected club competition.