CAF CONFED CUP
By Femi Solaja
Nigeria’s quest for glory this year in continental football may have vanished following Rivers United’s disappointing 0-2 loss to visiting Club Africain of Tunisia in the CAF Confederation Cup Group A match at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt yesterday.
The Nigerian team needed an outright win to move to the top of the log on nine points but the result has given the Tunisian side the chance to hit the summit while Rivers United are rooted to the bottom of the table on six points.
The home side started brightly with Bernard Ovoke looking lively for Rivers in the Africain half in the first 20 minutes.
Africain were then awarded a free-kick in a promising area in the 28th minute after Manoubi Haddad was fouled.
Oussama Darragi then stepped up and forced Rivers goalkeeper Olufemi Thomas into a brilliant save from the set-piece.
Haddad tried to send Darragi through on goal in the 38th minute, but Thomas came out to gather the ball.
The hosts pressed Africain towards the half-time break and Bolaji Sakin’s header narrowly missed the target.
Nevertheless, the score was 0-0 during the half-time break following a relatively quiet first-half for Rivers United.
Mohammed Lukman was introduced by the Rivers bench seven minutes into the second-half as the home side looked to break the deadlock.
However, it was Africain, who got in front through Haddad’s powerful free-kick which beat Thomas to make it 1-0 in the 62nd minute.
Riversâ€™ midfielder Ayobami Asekunowo then found himself unmarked outside the Africain boxÂ ten minutes laterÂ and he fired inches wide of the target.
Pressure was mounting on the Africain and Ovoke outpaced the visitors’ defence in the 76th minute, but his shot at goal narrowly missed the target.
But a late counter attack led to Mokhtar Belkhiter scoring with a deflected shot – sealing Africain’s hard-fought 2-0 away victory.
RIVERS:Â Thomas, Festus, Ojobo, Nweke, Doumbia, Saka, Egbuonu (Lukman 52′), Obomate (Asamoah 54′ Kuemian 87′), Ovoke, Asekunowo, Sakin.
AFRICAIN:Â Dkhili (Yeferni 86′), Ifa, Jaziri, Abdi, Dhkilalli, Zemzemi (Kchok 79′), Ben Yahia, Darragi, Chenihi (Agrebi 60′), Belkhiter, Haddad.Â Â