Enyimba Football Club will have to wait until the final day to confirm progress to the Nigeria Professional Football League playoff despite labouring to a 2-0 win over Niger Tornadoes at the Enyimba Stadium on Monday evening.
The People’s Elephant were well aware that victory would seal progress to the next round only in the event of their closest chasers – Rivers United and MFM FC – faltering in their respective fixtures, but the latter scored a late winner to ensure that the race ends in a photo finish.
Usman Abd’Allah chose the same backline that kept a clean sheet in the trip to Remo Stars but made three alterations in offensive positions, handing starting shirts to Joseph Osadiaye and Jean-Marie Guera, as well as the returning Ibrahim Mustapha.
Enyimba thought they had got their due reward for a lively start when Mustapha picked up an Austin Oladapo through ball and fired beyond Mustapha Aliko into the far left, but the effort was ruled offside.
Things looked down for the dominant hosts shortly after though, as Farouk Mohammed came under a heavy tackle and was replaced by Dare Olatunji.
The visitors grew strong and proved a good match for the former champions, contesting every ball in the middle, but barely threatened in the goalmouth.
Mustapha and Guera, meanwhile pulled impressive saves from Aliko at the other end, before the breakthrough three minutes into first half added time.
Osadiaye flick on Zenke’s corner came off the arm of a Tornadoes player and the referee pointed to the spot. Ifeanyi Anaemena stepped up and converted for his sixth of the season.
The hosts continued to dominate the chances in the second half, with Guera and Osadiaye coming close, but were made to wait until ten minutes to the end before Mustapha kept a cool head to finish off a rebound from Austin Oladapo’s initial effort.