Nigerian football giants Enyimba failed to pull off a third consecutive CAF Confederation Cup escape and were eliminated in the final qualifying round on Sunday. Needing four unanswered goals to force a penalty shoot-out against Zambian visitors ZANACO, the home team could manage only a 2-0 victory.
Lusaka-based bank outfit ZANACO advanced 4-2 on aggregate to become the first Zambian contenders to reach the last-eight stage of the second-tier African Football Confederation club competition. They go into Group B with Harras al-Hodoud of Egypt and the winners of games between FUS Rabat of Morocco and SuperSport United of South Africa and CS Sfaxien of Tunisia and Petro Atletico of Angola.
Enyimba, chasing a domestic double having won the league title and reached the FA Cup final against Kaduna United, scored once in each half through Ikenna Iwuorie and Henry Uche. But dreams of emulating Mount Cameroon, who wiped out a four-goal first-leg deficit against Ajax Cape Town of South Africa in the 2008 Confederation Cup, did not materialise.
The Nigerians won previous home qualifiers 3-0 against Academica Soyo of Angola and Vita Club from the Democratic Republic of Congo after suffering first-leg losses with the tie against the latter side going to penalties.
Poor South African performances in the competition continued as depleted SuperSport United fell 1-0 away to Moroccan outfit FUS Rabat and went out on the away-goal rule. Trailing 2-1 from the first leg in Pretoria, a FUS side that narrowly missed relegation from the national championship last season scored the decisive goal on 72 minutes via Jamal Triki.
Sfaxien struck twice within a minute during the first half to establish a superiority they translated into a 3-1 victory over Petro Atletico of Angola in the Mediterranean city of Sfax following a goalless first encounter. Goals from Kamel Zaiem and Hamza Younes earned Sfaxien a two-goal half-time advantage that was extended five minutes into the second half by Haykel Guemamdia and 'Alex' reduced arrears with three minutes left.
Al Hilal of Sudan coasted into the mini-league phase with a 3-1 win against CAPS United of Zimbabwe in Harare having taken a five-goal lead into the return encounter. Despite the absence of Zimbabwe-born striker Edward Sadomba, who scored a first leg hat-trick, Hilal netted through Mohamed Bashir, Mudather Eltaib and captain Haitham Mostafa before Douglas Walaza pulled one back.
Hilal, twice African Champions League runners-up, join Al Ittihad of Libya, AS FAN of Niger and Djoliba of Mali in Group A and appear powerful enough to reach the semi-finals at least.