Enyimba midfielder Kingsley Sokari has blamed poor officiating for his side’s 2-0 defeat to Smouha in the frist round, second leg match of the Caf Champions League played behind close doors at Alexandria Stadium on Sunday.
The two-time African champions, who went to Egypt with a slender 1-0 first leg advantage, failed to reach the last 16 no thanks to Hany El-Agazy and Hermann Kauoa’s goals conceded in the final ten minutes which ensured the Egpytians progressed into the second round after winning 2–1 on aggregate.
While commenting on the defeat, Sokari who was sent off in the second half of the game, insists his marching order was an unjustifiable plot by Tunisian referee Slim Belkhouas to send the Elephants packing from the competition.
The 20-year-old described the referee as a kill joy accusing him of awarding controversial penalty and dubious goal to the Egpytian Premier League runners-up in such a high-profile continental clash played without fans.
“The referee killed us from the start of the game to the last minute. I was sent off for no football reasons. The referee didn’t just want us as he dished out yellow cards at every little challenge on the pitch,” Sokari told Goal .
“Imagine, we had close to seven yellow cards and the home team never recieved a card. It was really terrible. The first goal which was called a penalty was just not real and the other goal also was more of a hand ball but was counted for goal.
“I’m dissapointed after all our efforts to aviod defeat. I’m surprised how a game like this played in Egypt behind close doors would be officiated by a North African referee.”
After the success of 2003 and 2004, Enyimba are yet to go beyond the group stage since 2011 despite managing to reach the semi-finals that year.
Meanwhile, Sokari has teamed up with the Nigeria U23 national team in Abuja ahead of their final qualifying match of the All Africa Games against Zambia on Saturday, April 11 in Lusaka.