Enyimba secured a place on the continent with an assured 1-0 win over Katsina United at the UJ Esuene Stadium in Calabar on Saturday.
The seven-time league champions could, and should have scored more, but never looked in danger following Stephen Chukwude's goal in the 10th minute.
The People's Elephant came into the game knowing that a win was imperative in order to tie up third spot and, with it, a place in the CAF Confederation Cup. With Akwa United just a point behind, and hosting Kano Pillars at home in Uyo, Enyimba's destiny was very much in their hands: a slip-up was not to be countenanced.
Coach Gbenga Ogunbote largely kept faith with the side that drew in Enugu last weekend, making only two changes: Ikouwem Udoh came into the side in place of Chima Akas, while Eric Frimpong returned in place of Solomon Okpako.
Enyimba were on the front foot from the opening whistle, and seized the game's first real opportunity to settle nerves. Stanley Dimgba had already seen a narrowly missed at the far post by Ifeanyi Anaemena; the second time around, striker Stephen Chukwude rose highest to crash home the opener.
With a lead established, the tempo slowed to a trickle. The goalscorer flicked on for strike partner Chinonso Okoonkwo to fire over the top, while Frimpong stumbled in the box after an explosive run, but the first half came to a somewhat tepid end.
Chukwude came close to a second mere minutes after the restart, following some sterling work on the left by Okonkwo. He was however denied a brace by a save, at full-stretch, by visiting goalkeeper Yinka David.
Then ensued a duel between Ikechukwu Ibenegbu and the Katsina shot-stopper via free kicks. David tipped over in the 51st, held on in the 63rd, and was beaten all ends up in the 77th, only to be saved by the crossbar.
Substitute Maxwell Effiom also had a couple of attempts, but ultimately was unable to add to the tally, before Okonkwo flicked over the top from an Ibenegu free kick.
The result sees Enyimba finish the league season in third place, with 63 points, five behind champions Plateau United and, crucially, one ahead of Akwa United in fourth.
Enyimba 1 (Stephen Chukwude 10') - 0 Katsina United
Enyimba Starting XI: Theophilus Afelokhai, Andrew Abalogu, Uche John, Ifeanyi Anaemena, Ikouwem Udoh (Kelly Kester 35'), Dare Ojo, Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, Eric Frimpong (Maxwell Effiom 61'), Stanley Dimgba, Stephen Chukwude (Ibrahim Mustapha 83'), Chinonso Okonkwo.
Unused subs: Njoku Izundu, Olufemi Oladapo, Samson Gbadebo, Ugochukwu Leonard.
- 10 Sep, 2017
- 9 Sep, 2017
- 5 Sep, 2017
- 4 Sep, 2017
- 28 Aug, 2017