Sudanese side, El Hilal progressed to the mini-league stage despite losing 3-1 to Akwa United in their 2nd 1/16th round second leg on Wednesday at the Uyo International Stadium.
The Omdurman-based side with their 2-0 first leg cushioning subsequently went through on the away goal rule after they tied 3-3 on aggregate with Akwa United.
As boldly predicted by Hilal’s Nigeria-born midfielder Azeez Shobowale after their victory in Omdurman, the decider in Uyo had the trappings of a cup final with fans kept on the edge of their seats throughout the match.
“We are going to Uyo to qualify for the next stage of the Total CAF Confederation Cup,” hinted Shobowale in an interview with CAFOnline.com. “Akwa United may carry the day but we will qualify and I’m confident about this because we are coming to fight our way through”.
Hilal indeed fought gamely from the start and midfielder Ahmed Bashir gave the visitors the lead in the 28th minute. But defender Dennis Nya later fetched the home side a morale boosting equaliser almost at the dot of the first stanza.
At the restart, Akwa continued their search for goals and were rewarded in the 49th minute when Michael Ibe fired them into the lead and the 22-year-old midfielder later grabbed a second half brace when he converted from the spot in the 69th minute.
Akwa threw everything into the game for another goal but the visitors stood their ground and secured their berth for the mini-league stage.
Elsewhere in Calabar, another Nigerian side, Enyimba were held to a goalless draw by the visiting Bidvest Wits of South Africa, but it enough to see the former through on the away goal rule after a 1-1 tie on aggegate.
Bidvest’s substitute goalkeeper Kyle Peters remarkably denied the host a last minute goal when he saved Olufemi Oladapo’s kick from the penalty spot after Freedom Omoformah was brought down in the 90th minute.