A reckless tackle by Enyimba’s goalkeeper, Olorunleke Ojo, resulted in a 1-0 defeat for the Nigerian team against Wydad Casablanca from Morocco in the African Football League on Sunday. Captain Ojo fouled Ayoub el Amloud, leading to a penalty kick converted by Wydad’s skipper, Yahya Jabrane, in the 39th minute, which determined the outcome of the quarter-final first leg in Uyo, Nigeria.
Enyimba found renewed strength in the second half, especially with the introduction of midfielder Ikenna Cooper. They came close to equalizing, with 16-year-old Daniel Daga showing promise.However, Enyimba’s chances dwindled when they were reduced to 10 players in added time. Alalibo Somiari fouled Montasser Lahtimi as the last defender, leading to a VAR-confirmed red card after an initial yellow.
The return match will be hosted by Wydad on Wednesday, with the Moroccan team being the clear favorites to secure a spot in the semi-finals, where they might face TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of Congo or Tunisian side Esperance.
Wydad has been a dominant force in African football, having reached four of the last seven CAF Champions League finals and winning two. On the other hand, Enyimba, who won back-to-back Champions League titles in 2003, has struggled to claim further African silverware and was even eliminated in a preliminary qualifier this season. Coach Finidi George faces a significant challenge, especially in improving the accuracy of his team’s shots, as they had 20 attempts at goal but only one on target.
In another match, five-time African champions TP Mazembe overcame a challenging build-up to defeat Esperance 1-0 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Cheick Fofana scored the only goal with a powerful header in the 11th minute.Mazembe was forced to play away from home as Congolese customs officials refused to allow CAF equipment into the country, much to the frustration of the club’s officials. This situation has diminished their hopes of advancing further in the competition.
In other first-leg matches, Simba of Tanzania drew 2-2 at home against Egypt’s Al Ahly on Friday, while South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns triumphed 2-0 over Petro Luanda of Angola on Saturday.The African Football League (AFL) underwent a name change a few months ago, transitioning from CAF Africa Super League to avoid any association with the failed 2021 European Super League.
The format was also altered, reducing the number of teams and changing to a knockout-style competition due to limited sponsorship. Prize money was significantly reduced, with the winners set to receive $4 million, a considerable decrease from the initial $11.5 million prize.