Good morning everyone,
So we bowed out on a high after a 3-1 win over Mamelodi Sundowns. Talk about redeeming your image after a poor Continental campaign and for handing the fans some joy, I think the team achieved both tasks. However, thoughts were, however couldn’t we play this well on alien turf, avoiding defeats in South Africa and in Egypt?
I know this is a victory, something for the fans like the gaffer promised but so also is that tinge of regret and wonder at what probably might have been had we began this campaign with a win and not that infamous defeat to Zamalek the last time we lined out here. The conditions were nearly similar, as per the rains even though today’s broke out in the course of the game.
The lineup was basic and straight to the point. No experiments, no surprises. It was the team we know and were assured would put in a good shift. Severally this season, its been varying permutations and let’s be honest, the gaffer with the myriads of players at his disposal and a bad pitch in Umuahia, has had a tough time zeroing in on who his best and most reliable legs for the competitions are.
Kester was at base of the midfield alongside Nzube. Uche John at right back with Udoji and Anyanwu at the heart of our defence. Uwadiegwu at Left back. The front four were Mfon Udoh, Peter Onyekachi, Stephen Chukwude and Daniel Etor. Then of course not leaving our Safe Hands Theo who manned the sticks.
Our start was the classic ‘business as usual’ we’ve seen time and time again this season. With 20 minutes played and a solitary effort was Mfon’s one on one miss in the second minute, it was less than inspiring till an Uche John bullet handed us a lead and the quick adrenaline shot we desperately needed. His 25th minute strike from the edge of the area handing us the breakthrough.
The joy was short lived. As short lived as our recent leads. We failed to deal with a ball in the area, leaving Percy Tau to nod in. Like the Zamalek goal, it looped above Afelokhai to shut up the buoyant Enyimba faithful. My initial thoughts were, when was the last time we took a lead into the break? I remember Pillars, then Rangers. We seem to concede right after we scored.
But Mfon Udoh had other plans. Sandilands in the Sundowns goal was having a funny game. Somehow he felt he could dribble Mfon in added time but our record goalscorer nibbed the ball off him then had us hearts-in-mouth as he wriggled and twisted before firing home. He got us back in front yet again but most importantly, we took the lead into the break.
A quick third was necessary and it arrived in the 50th minute, seconds after the South Africans missed a chance to draw level. Truthfully we were living dangerously and to be honest, we have rarely looked accomplished in defence this season. Its a department that have rarely put a wrong foot in recent seasons but as we look at the title run in, its an area in dire need of a major surgery.
Stephen Chukwude bore down on goal and brilliantly weighed in between the defender looking to recover the ball and Sandilands. The bait was too tempting for the defender who just clipped his heels leaving the referee an easy penalty call to make. Up stepped Mfon and his sent the keeper the wrong way. 3-1.
Incidentally that’s where the floodgates got shut. There were half chances at both ends but none could be put away. OK, Etor’s miss later own wasn’t a half chance but it was an effort fashioned by the conditions. A back pass failed to get to its intended target and the winger latched onto it. He rounded the keeper and rather than finish with his weaker right, opted to pass to Chukwude and the chance vanished into thin air.
But the goals we had scored was enough to secure the win as we bowed out of the competition on a high. We would always look back and ask, whatever might have been, had we somehow not taken this route? Perhaps a win vs Zamalek or maybe a draw in South Africa. Its all going to be a flurry of ‘what ifs’ but we can on the contrary opt to look ahead to where we go to from here.
The team needed this win and that’s not just for pride alone. We need this booster ahead of what lies up front in the weeks and days ahead. We would want to get back in the Continent and there are nine games for us to achieve that. There also are two games to accomplish that in the Federation Cup even though that lands us the Confederation Cup. It could be a decent reward based on how we looked this season.
There would be more on that in the days ahead but this was a good win albeit with nothing left for us to play in the Continent and I think we deserve to enjoy all of it. The post match reactions should be subject of tomorrow’s blogpost.