Enyimba has crashed out of this season’s CAF Champions League after suffering a 0-1 defeat to Egyptian club, Zamalek on Monday.
Basem Morsi netted the game’s decisive strike just after the hour from the penalty spot after the Enyimba captain, Chinedu Udoji was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box.
The result means that Mamelodi Sundowns and Zamalek can no longer be caught by the Nigerian side in Group B as they have failed to record any wins after their first three games of the competition.
Enyimba’s head coach, Paul Aigbogun opted to start Chima Akas, Dare Ojo, Emmanuel Anyanwu and the captain, Udoji in a four-man defence.
Kelly Kester, Femi Oladapo, Joseph Osadiaye and Nzube Anaezemba were the chosen individuals saddled with the responsibility of manning the Enyimba midfield while Stephen Chukwude and Ifeanyi Onuigbo were the twin forwards in a 4-4-2 formation.
Zamalek dominated the first half and were unfortunate not to take the lead on more than one occasion.
Mostapha Fathi carved out the first goalscoring opportunity of the night at the Petro Sport Stadium, Cairo in the early moments of the half as he buzzed down the left hand channel but his cross cum shot from an acute angle fizzed wide off Joel Theophilus Afelokhai’s goal.
Afelokhai did well to push away a telling cross from Ahmed Tawfik in the 18th minute with two Zamalek forwards, Shikabala and Basem Morsi queuing up to apply the slightest of finishes for the game’s only goal.
That miss by Zamalek appeared to be the shot in the arm the seven-time Nigerian champions required to stir from hibernation as Onuigbo headed a free kick just wide barely a minute later.
Onuigbo had Enyimba’s best chance of the half as he headed a cross wide from the left in the 32nd minute.
Zamalek were, however, the more dangerous of the two sides and almost opened the scoring in the 35th minute when Ibrahim Salah slightly headed wide Khaled Kamar’s teasing cross from the left.
Basem Morsi’s effort a minute before the break caused panic amongst the visiting faithful but Afelokhai read the danger impeccably to save the day.
Zamalek continued to dictate the play and Maarouf Youssef almost made Enyimba pay for slack defensive play only to see his effort fail to make the net bulge.
Poor defending by Enyimba after a free kick allowed Fathi time and space to shoot from the edge of the box but he failed to keep his effort low and on target, six minutes after the restart.
Zamalek came close again in the 56th minute through a fierce free kick taken by Mustapha but Afelokhai produced more heroics to push the goal-bound effort away for a corner.
Disaster eventually for Enyimba on the hour as captain Udoji was adjudged to have handled the ball in the penalty area.
Morsi stepped up and unerringly fired past Afelokhai who barely moved a muscle as the Zamalek man found the left hand corner with cold-blooded accuracy.
Ayman Hefny almost applies the coup the grace in the 68th minute but he dragged his shot wide after a stunning solo run that left the Enyimba backline gasping for breath.
Against the run of play, Enyimba almost nicked a goal with 15 minutes remaining when Akas hammered a left-footed effort from 40 yards which goalkeeper, Ahmed El-Shenawy pushed to the cross bar with his fingertips.
Mfon Udoh came on as a late substitute for Enyimba and had a couple of gilt-edged opportunities which he failed to put away.
Shikabala almost put the result beyond any doubt in the 90th minute but his effort was impressively stopped by the peerless Afelokhai who just refused to be beaten from open play.
Enyimba have now failed to amass any points after three Champions League games while Zamalek and Mamelodi Sundowns progress to the semifinals from Group B.