By Christian Okpara
They were written off after losing 1-2 to visiting Hawks of The Gambia in Uyo, but Akwa United confounded all their critics yesterday when they went to Banjul to record a fantastic 2-0 win.
Many who watched the first leg at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in o knew that the Udom Emmanuel boys had it in them to take the Gambians to the cleaners. They only needed to bury their anxiety to come good; and that they did in Banjul despite the vociferous chants of the supporters of the home team.
The game started on a furious note with Akwa United taking the fight to the Gambians. Their persistence nearly paid off in the 30th minute when a Hawks’ defender was penalized for an infringement in the box. But Dennis Nya missed the resultant penalty kick.
Undeterred, the Victor Mbaoma led attack continued its search for the elusive goal, which eventually came shortly before the end of the first half.
Barely two minutes after the restart, Akwa United made it 2-0 to take the Nigerians ahead on goals aggregate.
What would have been the icing on the cake in the 74th minute by Mbaoma was disallowed by the referee for offside.
Yesterday’s victory ensured Akwa United qualified for the second round on a 3-2 aggregate score.
Yesterday was a good day for Nigerian football as the two teams in the CAF Champions League also qualified for the second round.
Nigerian champions, Plateau United moved to the next round in style by beating Eding Sport of Cameroun in Yaounde to qualify on a 4-0 aggregate haven won the first leg in Jos 3-0.
MFM of Lagos made an easy feast of Mali’s Real Bamako whom they beat 1-0 at the Agege Stadium to qualify on a 2-1 scoreline. The first leg in Congo ended 1-1.
Yesterday at the new look Agege Stadium, Chijioke Akuneto’s header made the difference for MFM whehj it seemed the game was heading for a stalemate.
MFM played without Akila Jesse and Sikiru Olatunbosun who were not eligible for the match, but in Abiodun Ayinde, Nojeem Akinyemi and Akuneto, who were being fed by Chukwuka Onuwa, the Olukoya Boys still posed serious threat to Real Bamako.
Only stout defending by the Malians ensured the scoreline did not change until the 85tbminute.
Okorom’s throw-in on the left side of the Bamako’s defence was flicked across the face of goal, where Akuneto met it with a bullet header past Adama Bamba.