The Nigerians needed a win against the Buccaneers to reach the Confederation Cup knockouts, and they duly delivered
Enyimba reached the Caf Confederation Cup quarter-final and eased the pressure on coach Fatai Osho with a 1-0 win over Orlando Pirates on Wednesday night.
Cyril Olisema’s last-gasp effort settled the keenly contested encounter in Aba, which the Peoples’ Elephants had to win to make certain they did not crash out at the group stage of the competition.
All four sides in Group A started the final round of matches with a chance of progressing and it was ES Setif and Al Ahli Benghazi who bowed out of the tournament.
This was billed as a must-win contest not only for the two-time African champions’ hopes of competing for the trophy, but also for Osho, whose future came under intense scrutiny after consecutive defeats to ES Setif and Al Ahly Benghazi.
The South Africans showed an intent to win from the blast of referee Helder Martins de Carvalho’s whistle – getting a corner kick in the first minute – however, Ntsikelelo Nyauza headed Vincent Pule’s kick into the waiting hands of goalkeeper John Noble.
Enyimba’s first chance came in the fifth minute, but captain Stanley Okorom shot tamely at goal after a good work from Orok Gabriel who sped through the visitors’ backline.
Orlando Pirates’ best chance of the first 45 minutes came through Linda Mntambo’s freekick that rattled Noble’s crossbar, albeit, Siphesihle Ndlovu could not get the rebound inside the net.
Wayne Sandilands made a brilliant save to keep out an Okorom strike, although the Aba Elephants were certainly improved after the interval and saw another chance go begging when Anayo Iwuala dragged a shot narrowly wide.
Sommer was again at full stretch to claw away Olisema’s cross before Victor Mbaoma’s follow-up somehow flew over the crossbar and away.
Josef Zinnbauer’s men were a lot more reserved as it approached the half-time break, although they had just 46 per cent of the ball and their tactic of relying on counterattack kept their hosts under proper check.
In the 41st minute, there was a moment for the Bucs as Tshegofatso Mabasa was stretchered off injured after he was challenged by Daniel Darkwah.
— Orlando Pirates FC (@orlandopirates) April 28, 2021
Coach Osho made two attacking changes in the second half – bringing in Tosin Omoyele for Mbaoma and Samada Kadiri for Orok – yet, they could not help the scoreline as they looked uncoordinated upfront.
Anayo should have put Enyimba ahead four minutes after the hour mark but he could only clip the ball over the bar with just the goalkeeper to beat.
Omoyele broke the deadlock in the 90th minute but his effort was cancelled for an offside. Nevertheless, the NPFL side had the last laugh as Olisema tucked Anayo’s assist past goalkeeper Sandilands to send the home fans into ecstasy.
FT | WE’VE MADE IT!
This is the spirit of the Elephant 💙💙💙
— Enyimba FC (@EnyimbaFC) April 28, 2021
With this result, Enyimba finished as group winners while the Bucs slipped into the second spot on head to head rule.