John Noble churned out a heroic performance as Enyimba progressed to the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup with a penalty shootout win over Rivers United at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium on Sunday evening.
Noble saved two before stepping up to convert the winning kick to lift The People’s Elephant into the pots for Monday’s group stage draws.
Enyimba led with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg in Aba, but that lead was almost cancelled in the opening minutes in Port Harcourt when Fortune Omoniwari held off Nabil Yarou only to have his attempt bounce off the body of Noble.
From then, Enyimba showed they knew the importance of a goal in the fixture, and Samad Kadiri recorded the nearest of misses as his seventeenth minute strike struck the base of the post.
But Omoniwari gave the hosts the lead on the day just before the break, firing in from close range after a fine run by Malachi Ohawume, to bring scores level on aggregate.
Anayo Iwuala troubled the United backline with his pace and trickery and Orok Gabriel showed promise after coming on as a substitute, while Rivers United also threatened with Omoniwari’s long range freekick.
With neither side able to score another in regular time, the match went straight to penalties and the visitors looked disadvantaged when Olisema missed Enyimba’s first kick, but Noble saved from Kunle Odunlami to drag it to sudden death, where he held Emmanuel Israel’s kick before successfully converting his to send Enyimba to the cherished group stage.
Enyimba are therefore Nigeria’s only team left in the CAF Club Competitions and will discover their group stage opponents when the draws are made on Monday.
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