31.03.2024 23:30 h

Okejepha raises Rivers' hopes of CAF Cup semis place

Augustine Okejepha scored a superb goal to give Rivers United of Nigeria a 1-0 victory over USM Alger of Algeria on Sunday in their CAF Confederation Cup quarter-final first leg.

Abubakar Adamu hit a low corner to the edge of the area, where Okejepha unleashed a powerful shot past goalkeeper Oussama Benbot on 10 minutes in the southeastern city of Uyo.

Rivers, hoping to become the first Nigerian winners of an African club competition since 2005, adapted much better to the 34 degrees Celsius (93 Fahrenheit) heat than the title-holders.

Rain midway through the second half did aid the Algerians, who lacked suspended captain and centre-back Zineddine Belaid, but they rarely threatened to equalise.

Rivers used their physical strength to good effect only to be let down by an inability to convert chances after Okejepha gave his team a perfect start.

Meanwhile, Dreams of Ghana, debuting in the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League, are poised to reach the semi-finals after a 2-1 away win over Stade Malien of Mali in Bamako.

Stade won the Confederation Cup at the first attempt in 2009 and this is their 10th appearance in the competition.

They went ahead on 53 minutes when Yoro Diaby scored his second goal of the CAF campaign, but veteran John Antwi then scored twice in seven minutes to stun the hosts.

Antwi equalised on 66 minutes with a tap-in after Stade goalkeeper N'Golo Traore failed to hold a cross, and then converted a penalty to put Dreams ahead.

The brace took Antwi to a chart-topping six goals in the Confederation Cup this season. Nigerian Kingsley Eduwo from already-eliminated Club Africain of Tunisia has scored five.

Malien midfielder Fady Coulibaly was shown a straight red card in added time and is automatically barred from the second leg.

Winners Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko contested an all-Ghana first Confederation Cup final in 2004, but since then no club from the country has reached the knockout stage until this season.

The return matches are scheduled for April 7 with the aggregate winners advancing to the semi-finals on April 21 and 28.