Camerooon club Cotonsport Garoua reached the group phase of the African Champions League for the first time despite losing 2-1 to Jeunesse Sportive Kayblie in Algeria this weekend.
Cotonsport took a three-goal advantage into the second leg of the third round qualifier and advance 4-2 on aggregate to the draw next Saturday in Cameroon which will split the eight survivors into two mini-leagues.
Success was especially sweet for the team from the north-west Cameroon town of Garoua as they were eliminated by Kabylie at the same stage of the 3.5-million-dollar competition last year.
A target of at least a three-goal victory appeared to be just within reach of Kabylie at their stadium in the eastern town of Tizi Ouzou and they made a dream start with Adlene Bensaid scoring after seven minutes.
But a Cotonsport side coached by young Frenchman Denis Lavagne weathered the first half storm without sustaining further damage and snatched a crucial away goal on the stroke of half-time through Zoua Daogari.
This meant twice African champions Kabylie had to score four goals and not concede any in the second half to squeeze though to the pool phase where the prize money kicks in.
After seven failed attempts to get beyond the qualifiers since the format was altered in 1997, Cotonsport were in no mood for surrender and contained Kabylie until Faouzi Chaouchi scored a hollow 88th-minute penalty winner.
It was far too little far too late from the Algerians, who have already qualified for the 2009 edition after taking an unassailable lead last weekend in the national championship.
Garoua become the third Cameroon club after Sable Batie and Canon Yaounde to reach the group phase of a competition last won by the central African nation in 1980 when Canon overcame Bilima of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Enyimba of Nigeria, one of just three clubs to successfully defend the Chanmpions League title, joined Cotonsport in the next phase despite a 2-1 loss to Club Africain in Tunisia.
The ‘Peoples Elephant’ from the south eastern town of Aba travelled north in a near invincible position having scored two stoppage goals against nine-man Club to establish a 5-1 first leg lead.
As in Algeria, the home team made an early dent in the lead of their rivals with Club taking only three minutes to forge ahead via a Borhane Ghannem goal, but did not score again until Aymen Rehifi struck in the closing stages.
Ajibade Omoladi grabbed a consolation goal for 2003 and 2004 champions Enyimba four minutes from full-time to complete the scoring and give his side an unexpected wide 6-3 aggregate triumph.
Defending champions Etoile Sahel of Tunisia must overcome a 1-0 deficit when they host Dynamos of Zimbabwe last Saturday and another five fixtures are scheduled for Sunday.
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