Rayon Sports’ quest for the CAF Confederation Cup ended on Saturday night, when the team lost 4-2 on penalty shootouts to Al-Hilal Benghazi in the second preliminary round second leg at Kigali Pele Stadium.
The Rwandan side was dominant throughout 90 minutes of play, fueled by the sensational atmosphere of their spectators, who packed the 10,000-seat stadium. The contest finished in a 1-1 deadlock, with Joackiam Ojera cancelling out Ezzeddin Elmarmi’s early goal.
Rachid Kalisa and François Mugisha of Rayon Sports both missed their penalties, dooming their side’s effort to reach the group stage, while Al-Hilal penalty takers converted all four penalties.
The two sides came into the game with equal odds of making it to the group stage, since they had equalized 1-1 in the first leg at Kigali Pele Stadium behind closed doors.
Al-Hilal commenced the match with a bang as they took an early lead through Ezzeddin Elmarmi’s opener in the first minute. The early goal gave the Libyan outfit a better chance of progressing to the group stages than Rayon Sports.
However, the Blues and Whites regained hope in the 37th minute, when Joackiam Ojera equalized with a header after Heritier Luvumbu crossed a brilliant pass to him. Rayon Sports fans then awoke and leapt into the air, heightening the tension on the pitch.
Al-Hilal players were repeatedly laying down on the pitch ostensibly to waste time, particularly goalkeeper Khaleid Almsmari, who was even booked for it. The pair went at halftime break in a 1-1 tie.
Yamen Zelfani made an adjustment at halftime, with Charles Bbaale coming on Musa Esenu, and afterwards, Hakim Bugingo replaced Elie Ganijuru.
Zelfani’s team had a great opportunity in the 60th minute through Ojera, who hit a volley and was thought to have scored, but his shot was stopped by Al-Hilal goalie Almsmari.
Al-Hilal players were largely Rayon confined to their side’s area as Rayon Sports continued to dominate them, hoping to capitalize on counterattacks.
In the 73rd minute, Ally Serumogo made a mistake that could have cost his team a goal when he headed the ball to Rayon Sports goalie Adolphe Hakizimana, who was outside of the goal. Fortunately for them, the ball missed the goal slightly.
Ojera, who was on fire on the night, missed a significant scoring chance in the 84th minute when his shot flew wide after receiving an astounding pass from Ally Serumogo, but the Ugandan international failed to find the back of the net or look up to pass Charles Bbaale, who was in the right position to score. Ojera was greedy.
Both teams headed to penalty shootouts to determine who would advance to the group stage after the regular time ended in a 1-1 draw, making the overall score 2-2.
Despite the fact that Aimable Nsabimana and Charles Bbaale converted their penalty kicks for Rayon Sports, the first two penalties missed by Rachid Kalisa and François Mugisha put an end to their Confederation Cup journey for this season, as the Benghazi-based club converted all four penalties.
Therefore, Al Hilal picked up a first-ever qualification for the CAF Confederation Cup group stage.
Rayon Sports was trying to recreate their spectacular moments from 2018, returning to the competition’s group stages for the first time since then. Unfortunately, their dream was cut short.
Photos by Moise Niyonzima