Enyimba recorded a disappointing 0-0 draw with 10-man Al Hilal of Sudan in Sunday’s CAF Champions League Second Preliminary Round first leg clash in Aba.
The People’s Elephant were dominant all through the duration but lacked the cutting edge on the final third.
Enyimba fired an early warning to Hilal when Nelson Ogbonnaya planted his headed effort from Stanley Okorom’s free kick into the side netting. That was just five minutes after the start.
The visitors heeded the warning and applied caution in their defensive approach, absorbing all that The People’s Elephant threw at them in the onesided 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 same spot as the first.
Ghana import, Daniel Darkwa drifted up field and when he was about getting a clear sight on goal, he was tripped by Abuaagla Abdala Named.
Enyimba centre-back, Ifeanyi Anaemena added his name to the list of those who missed scoring opportunities when on 12th minute, he swept his glorious chance waywardly over the crossbar after Onuwa Emeruwa’s sleek touch off Dimgba’s cross from the right.
On the quarter hour mark, Stanley Okorom stung the gloves of Hilal goalkeeper, Salim Macoola with a rising strike from distance. The shot stopper did well to push the ball into corner.
Five minutes later, Al Hilal were reduced to 10 men with Nazar Named Nassr given a red card for violent conduct. The defender had stepped on Enyimba defender, Daniel Darkwa, to draw the anger of the match official.
With the numerical advantage, Enyimba patiently worked and waited for the breakthrough as they encamped in their opponent’s territory leaving goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai virtually on holidays.
Obi Damson had his effort parried by the Hilal keeper on 42 minutes and the ball came back gloriously for him, but his second smash of the ball went wide off target.
For the first time in this opening half, Hilal sneaked behind Enyimba back line with Barnet Named getting to the byline but his left foot effort was easily caught off by keeper Afelokhai.
Perhaps, the best chance of the half fell on Dimgba who found his way into the crowded Hilal box. He twisted all defenders who virtually got fixed on a spot but his shot towards the far post went wide to the consternation of the packed stands that included governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
Both sides went into the break on equal terms.
The restart followed same pattern as the first with Enyimba in ‘total’ control but were unable to break down Hilal well knitted defence.
As spectators resorted to counting on their fingers how many scoring opportunities Enyimba have wasted and possibly when the breakthrough could come, Hilal found an opportunity for a counter attack with Mohammed Darac firing a left foot drive that went marginally wide with Afelokhai fully stretched on six minutes past the hour mark.
In a frantic to shore up his attack, coach Usman Abd’Allah withdrew Obi Samson for Bashir Abdulrahman and Martins Usule for Onuwa Emeruwa.
And it was Abdulrahman that came close to finding the back of the net with a fierce strike from close range. But the goalkeeper reacted brilliantly, pushing the ball into corner.
With seven minutes remaining on the clock, Stanley Dimgba fired a ferocious shot from the edge of the box but Macoola went down early enough to gather.
Hilal displayed tremendous composure, organisation and confidence as they repulsed every Enyimba offensive till the final whistle.