Enyimba International Football Club of Aba were held to a disappointing goalless draw by 10-man Al-Hilal FC of Sudan in Sunday’s CAF Champions League Second Preliminary Round first-leg clash in Aba.
The Peoples’ Elephant were dominant all through the duration of the match but lacked the cutting edge on the final third.
Enyimba fired an early warning to Al-Hilal FC when Nelson Ogbonnaya planted his headed effort from Stanley Okorom’s free-kick into the side netting just five minutes after the start.
The visitors heeded the warning and applied caution in their defensive approach, absorbing all that the hosts threw at them at the end of a one-sided first half.
Enyimba again came close to breaking the deadlock two minutes later when Okorom hit the side netting from a free-kick almost on the same spot as the first.
On the quarter-hour mark, Stanley Okorom stung the gloves of goalkeeper Salim Marcoola with a rising strike from distance, but the shot-stopper did well to push the ball away for a corner.
Five minutes later, Al- Hilal were reduced to 10 men with Nazar Nassr shown a straight red card for violent conduct, after the defender had stepped on Enyimba defender, Daniel Darkwa.
Both sides went into the break on equal terms.
The restart followed the same pattern as the first with Enyimba in absolute control of the game but were unable to break down the visitor’s resolute defence.
Al-Hilal found an opportunity for a counter-attack with Mohammed Darac firing a left-foot drive that went marginally wide with Afelokhai fully stretched in the 51st minute.
In a frantic move to shore up his attack, coach Usman Abdallah substituted Obi Samson for Bashir Abdulrahman and Martins Usule for Onuwa Emeruwa.
The move almost paid off as Abdulrahman came close to finding the back of the net with a fierce strike from close range, but the goalkeeper reacted brilliantly, pushing the ball for a corner.
With seven minutes remaining on the clock, Stanley Dimgba fired a ferocious shot from the edge of the box but Marcoola went down early enough to gather.
Al-Hilal displayed tremendous composure, organisation and confidence as they repelled every Enyimba offensive till the final whistle.
The Peoples’ Elephant will travel to Sudan on Sept. 29 for the return leg.