April 2016, Enyimba was getting set for the last hurdle before Etoile du Sahel. A 3-0 win the first leg meant Enyimba was already half way there but Sousse is any opposition team’s nightmare and for our lads, hardly have they shown true colours away from home. But there was no way Etoile would overturn a 3-0 deficit.
Or would they? Ok, lets say they get an early goal then a second just after halftime and its a matter of when before they get their third. No, our defence is good enough, there’s no way we would concede three goals. Or well maybe we’ll concede three, but our strikers would get one. So raged the thoughts in the days leading to the game, you couldn’t push the thoughts away, it just lingered.
The rest of course is history. We did indeed throw away that three goal aggregate lead but Theophilus Afelokhai saved us blushes with his spot kick heroics. We survived, Peter Onyekachi firing home the deciding penalty that sent us to the Group Stages of the 2016 CAF Champions League. No one thought of the 3-0 scores at full-time, we had gone through, a first appearance in five years.
All of Nigeria’s football community celebrated us. We had done the unthinkable. We were the heroes and in fact the LMC ensured all of the country would watch us play Akwa United in Uyo by airlifting us straight from our point of entry to the flashy and new Uyo airport. We even got extra hours of rest and when it eventually was time, we reaffirmed our new found “legendary” tag by beating Akwa United right in front of their fans.
The tag lingered and the Uyo victory was the first in a 9 match unbeaten run. Then we played Zamalek and things went awry. The team forgot how good they were. Home wins were laboriously done. Away games meant instant defeats. The pressure was cranking up and the blame game was truly on, playing away from home, delayed salaries, new team, new manager, fixtures pile up.
But this team is not anything as bad as the results showed. Last Tuesday, we inflicted a first defeat on Mamelodi Sundowns. It also marked the end of our Champions League campaign, perhaps the Champions League was a distraction we didn’t need. Well, that is out of the way and it’s showtime again. Its safe to say, ‘Our season starts here’.
Udoji said after the Sundowns win that the rest of the season’s fixtures are all cup finals and I believe that’s starting with this evening’s fixture against Akwa United. The instruction is simple, “Play like it’s really a cup final and in fact win too”. A win this evening strengthens our momentum as we look to finish as strongly as possible.
We would have live updates on twitter via @Enyimbaenyi and of course the LMC @LMCNPFL.
We should be winning this. Its not negotiable really. So lets get out there and get the job done.
Good news in tomorrow’s blog then hopefully.