Al-Hilal of Sudan snatched a 3-2 win over Enyimba of Nigeria this weekend in a dramatic start to the group phase of the 2008 CAF Champions League. Nigeria-born substitute Ifeanyi Onigbo headed the winner one minute from full-time after a blunder by goalkeeper Sani Ualiru in a Group B clash that attracted a sell-out 40,000 crowd.
Reduced to 10 men when defender Okey Odita was sent off on 62 minutes having been cautioned twice, Enyimba thought they had dodged defeat when leading scorer Stephen Worgu scored with five minutes left. Worgu created the opening goal for Cletus Itodo after 34 minutes, Hilal captain Haitham Mustafa levelled from a 41st-minute penalty and Nigerian Yusuf Mohamed edged the home side ahead 50 seconds into the second half.
The result reinforced how strong Hilal are in their sauna-like fortress as 2003 and 2004 champions Enyimba came to east Africa boosted by winning five of six qualifiers and scoring 20 goals.
After weathering a series of early attacks from the Nigerians, Hilal stamped their authority on midfield and came close several times to breaking the deadlock from set pieces.
Itodo stunned Sudanese supporters by bursting through the middle and slipping a pass wide of goalkeeper Moez Mahjoub only for Mustafa to send Ualiru the wrong way when Odita fouled Ahmed Adil.
Mohamed unleashed a long-range shot for the goal of the match and after Worgu appeared to have punished wasteful Hilal, Ualiru failed to cut off a free kick and Onigbo rose to head home.
Cotonsport Garoua of Cameroon host former champions Tout Puissant Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo Saturday in the other Group B fixture, and Egyptian giants Al-Ahly and Zamalek clash Sunday in the weekend highlight.