Enyimba 2-0 MFM: Jinx? What jinx? 

Good morning Everyone, 

2-0 and an ascent up the table. Our romance with MFM came to an abrupt halt yesterday as we dispatched them professionally in our new home in Calabar. Ahead of the game, there wasn’t really so much of a debate about it because they are not the side they look like away from home from last season. 

The one I call Mr nice guy, Nelson Ogbonnaya put us ahead from a Bashir cross and after a couple of misses, Chinonso Okonkwo got us what was the game’s second and last goal from the spot. All of this happened in the first half and it was going to be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for them to mount a comeback. Why? Their away record. 

The good thing for me about this team is our variety in attack. In the past couple of weeks we have swapped the Chukwude, Alalade/Leonard for Bashir, Mustapha with Nonso primarily the main stay in the team. There’s of course the likes of Mfon and Obioma who have been on the fringes so far this season. It’s going to take a lot to keep everyone happy but of course, that’s the headache for the coaches. 

It is worth mentioning though that halfway through the second half, we got reduced to ten men. Central defender Isiaka Oladuntoye got his second booking and marching orders. The bench reacted by hauling off Stanley Dimgba for Uche John. That did shift the momentum a little bit to the visitors but there wasn’t any realistic chance of a full comeback especially as Dauda kept making them saves. In the end, we held out for the win. 

The win meant we shoot up seven places to 5th albeit with a game in hand. Merely looking at the table, it’s so tight that no we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. It’s also remarkable that we have picked 4 out of 6 with Aigbogun away on National assignment. Difficult to argue that he hasn’t put a remarkable technical assistance to stand in amibly in his place. 

Speaking of our gaffer, his under-20 side fell 2-1 yesterday to Egypt in the first game of their tour of the country. It wasn’t really a very impressive display according to Jollof sports. Nigerian born Bournemouth midfielder Nnamdi Ofoborh made an appearance for us while Zaruma pulled one back after the Flying Eagles had conceded twice.  Well, a start is a start, isnt it? Hopefully things will get better. 

That’s all I’ve got for you today. I’ll be back nice and early tomorrow. 

Till then,

‘EnyimbaEnyi 

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Let’s break this winless MFM jinx. A match Preview 

Good morning Peoples of the Federal Republic of the 2018 Russia World Cup. 

That line above is the only Super Eagles/World Cup related line you’d find on this website today. Why? Three things. 1. I didn’t watch the game. 2. Yes it’s on YouTube but I don’t want to remind everyone of it. 3. There’s an Enyimba match preview that we wanna attempt to write. So let’s get started on that, shall we? 

MFM is the opponent in an NFPL rescheduled fixture. We both had Continental engagement on the original date of this fixture. So this becomes one of the three rearranged NFPL fixtures played today. After the game on Sunday, someone pointed out that we were now 12th on the log. Same person failed to see that we had two outstanding matches. So yea, this is one of them. 

Our MFM duels have been strange. Very strange indeed. Ever since they made an entrance into the League, neither us nor them have been able to get the better of each other. Two seasons ago, a draw they got against us in Port Harcourt saw them survive relegation. Oh well, it aided them especially combined with what happened against Heartland in Jos on the final day of the season. Earlier that season, we had hard fought and gotten a fluke draw in Lagos. 

In the season that followed, that was our Ogunbote era. Stephen Odey had given them a shock early lead in Calabar before Mustapha Ibrahim (85th minute) got us an equalizer. I do love Mustapha and I think he’s one of the best strikers at the club. I think he will be adored by the Aba faithful when we return home. And the fact that he is flexible enough to play with any other striker tells you he is one we must cotton-wrap for the future. 

So today, we would have to find a way to break this MFM jinx. We just have to. And one key way to get that done is to recognize their threat and give this game a truly professional performance. I don’t know where we are by way of personnel seeing we just but we should have enough well rested bodies to deliver this one. 

We can’t be warned enough of the threat MFM poses. They are in the Continent and that’s primarily because they earned the right to. Finishing second place is no joke. We finished second place severally and it costs a great deal of hardwork to achieve that. We are faced with a very good opponent today – we must treat them such and give our best for these three points. Three points means an ascent up the table. 

Finally and very strangely, I’ll love the club to start Friday Achimugwu in goal today. Can I tell you why in tomorrow’s blog? 

Till then, 

‘EnyimbaEnyi 

Beware of Vanguard Newspapers, they will steal your intellectual property 

Good morning Everyone! 

Let’s get started with the positive one. Defender Udoh Ikouwem currently with the National under 20 team in their tour of Egypt has been named the under-20 team captain. Pictures emerged yesterday as a certain Paul Aigbogun, the under-20 head coach anointed him his skipper. The pictures actually did appear funny – to me, Ikouwem did look unaware of what was even going on; bleak, “smileless” and looking just blank. 

It doesn’t take away the remarkable achievement of the past 2 years for this young man. I remember the first day I was introduced to him. An Enyimba official told me – “There’s this young man you need to meet. He’s a left back, an attacking fullback and he’s a very good player”. “Where is he?” I inquired. Then I was pointed in his direction of where he was standing. Spectacular? No he wasn’t. I shook hands with him and we exchanged numbers. 

Well, 16 months after I met him, he keeps raising his stock. Made the CHAN team despite having only shown up at the Super Six tournament for Enyimba. Was one of the biggest sparks at the tournament and has bulldozed himself into the Enyimba first team. Now not only has he found himself in the under-20 team, he is there now as the skipper. No doubt, he hasn’t “gone beyond Aba” but at least we can see the progress. Keep up the hardwork son. 

Next, I stumbled on a tweet yesterday and I’m obligated to write about it. So ACL Sports sponsored one of their own to Poland to interview with Alex Iwobi. The Arsenal man spoke expressly to the journo who in turn wrote it all out for the ACL website. Now Vanguard Newspapaers go on this website and pick this interview, word for word and put it on their website and on the paper circulating all over the country. No credits to ACL sports, no mention either, nothing like that. 

It’s a pathetic. And single person involved with this ought to hang their heads in shame. This is who we have become as a country, stealing the intellectual property of a person with zero credits to them and publishing it as yours. If you don’t know what you are, I’ll tell you. You are a thief. Quit complaining about our politicians because you’re all cut off the same cloak. Thieves. Zero shame. You are all part of the problem of Nigeria. 

I’m taking this personal because I’ve seen my articles on several websites and newspapers yet no one had the sense to acknowledge where they got this one from. One took an article I wrote about an Oriental Derby, added a different opening and closing paragraph, cut off mine and then populated it with incorrect information as well as stats. This is how they got the League reporting in a mess. Some of us got on the scene and weekly we’re producing rich, brilliant and well seasoned articles and now all they can do is to resort to stealing? You see who these folks really are? 

It’s only a matter of time, because right now your deeds are getting more in the open. Keep it up. Very soon you’ll lose whatever credibility you have left. 

Sorry this is how I’m starting out your day for you. I’m sorry. But rest assured, it still wouldn’t change the beautiful day you’d have today if you believe. Except of course, you’re part of these vanguard article thieves. 

Back tomorrow, 

‘EnyimbaEnyi 

3 things: Yobe Desert Stars 1-1 Enyimba 

Good morning Everyone, 

So someone said they love the three things style, and not haven gotten anything in the contrary, I’d assume that’s the voice of the rest of the world. So here’s my three things from the fixture. 

1. Another away game, another away point: This must be the most important point of all three points. About time we voiced it but somehow this team is bearing semblance of Kadiri Ikhana’s title winning squad. Somehow we have refused to learn how to return empty handed from away grounds. We had lost 2-0 to Katsina United and 1-0 to Rangers and that’s all. Lobi Stars, Rivers United, El-Kanemi Warriors, Kano Pillars and now Yobe Stars have all seen us return with a share of the spoils. More of same guys, the title is surely in view. 

2. Another good start lays benchmark for good result: By the 5th minute, we were already ahead. That was straight from our CAF Confederations Cup campaign manual.  I know Aigbogun’s teams always started the game on the front foot but hardly had it yielded the needed results. Aigbogun 2.0 however is looking just what the doctor ordered. Returning prodigy Ibrahim Mustapha worked the wonders with an early finish that stunned our hosts who hadn’t conceded at home all season. Nothing better than setting the tone for the game – having opponents chase the game. 

3. Interesting team selection but yo man job nonetheless: The big worry for a gaffer making “wholesale” changes is how the new guys will cope. This lineup had a lot of fresh faces both starting and on the bench. Uche John slotted in at Center Back with Oladuntoye. Andrew Abalogu, Tofic Omar, Abdulrahman Bashir and Austin Oladapo all started but the big surprises was Nasiru Sani, Joseph Osadiaye and Ibrahim Mustapha all handed unlikely starts. A point a piece justified the big calls. 

There is genuine cause for optimism in the team although we must warn that this is early days and we have not won anything yet. But we surely are looking in the right direction. Just imagine for a second that we do indeed return to Aba in 4 weeks. Pure esctasy! 

A word though to our referees who gave out 7 penalties on this MatchDay. @amoscp said not to criticize till I saw the match videos. We wait. Patiently. 

Back tomorrow guys, 

‘EnyimbaEnyi 

3 things: Yobe Stars vs Enyimba 

Good morning Guys, 

We are in Damaturu this morning as we try to get back into action in the League. Having dispatched Energies FC, the goal is to get back in touch with the leading pack in the League. Here are three things about the game. 

1. No Aigbogun: The gaffer’s national duties means he won’t be in the away team dugout as we battle the League’s newcomers. Our League’s very unforgiving schedule doesn’t make room for his Under-20 Egypt tour which kicked off at the weekend. Does his absence mean so much? I’ve got my views on that but I’ll wait till full time to voice it. 

2. Mustapha time: Having barely featured this term so far, our young prodigy should be returning to action today. His CHAN engagements got him frozen out of the team and he tried to get himself back on the same wavelength with the rest of the team. Again being originally from the North, he should have little time adjusting to the environment. Mustapha is the one striker we have who can play comfortably with everyone.

3. Old friends, new foes: Yobe have made a decent start to the League campaign and I had originally tipped them to battle relegation. Surprisingly so but another look at the key men doing the job shouldn’t really leave you any surprised. Head Coach Baba Ganaru masterminded a league title with Kano Pillars a couple of seasons ago. He has this team well grilled such that as yet they are yet to concede at home. 

Few weeks ago, they held Naze broke millionaires to a draw in Owerri. If we needed a lecture on what to expect today, there is is. The other name is Chinedu Ohanachom who couldn’t come alive during his stint with us, now he’s firing on all cylinders. 

Well, that’s the nature of the opposition we face today. It is important we don’t write them off as a bunch of newbies. This could be the toughest fixture we have faced so far this season- this is why we must dig deep and stay focused for two hours from 4pm today. Can we do it? Yes we can. But will we do it? In a few hours, we’d know. 

Back tomorrow. 

‘EnyimbaEnyi 

3 things I feel are responsible for the buzz about the Super Eagles

Good morning Guys, 

In my four years of running this blog, I still am not sure how that some very weird blogposts get excessive views and the ones you think will be a hit don’t. I haven’t understood it. Yesterday’s blog for instance was the highest views for this week, and some that I had really high hopes for, failed to live up to the billing. Does anyone have Arseblog’s bogging manual? 

Today I’ll speak of the Super Eagles. Three things I think are responsible for the good buzz about this Super Eagles huddle. I do think that this is a very different and indeed special Super Eagles setup and I’m backing on them to have a decent tournament at the forth coming World Cup. Win the World Cup? Very unlikely but there’s very high optimism about his crop of players. They play Robert Lewandoski and Poland this evening but here are my thoughts. 
1. They are young, hungry for success and a legendary status: Some of us grew up in the USA 94 age. Nigeria had a fantastic group of talented players then who were just coming to the limelight. I think they’re a little like this current group. They are young – most of them in fairly decent clubs in Europe where a good number of them are good clogs. Ndidi, Moses, Ogu, Iwobi, Ekong, Iheanacho. These kids are young and hungry and a good number of them are putting in a yo man’s job at their respective clubs. 

2. The Oyibo Gaffer is back: We all loved Clemens Westerhof. Maybe not you but I did. Shortly after him was Bonfrere Joe who masterminded the Atlanta 96 success. We’ve tried our hands on a couple of others but more recently, we resorted to indigenous coaches. Stephen Keshi, Amodu Shaibu, Sunday Oliseh etc all had their shot at it until someone pointed out Gernot Rohr. Most of the German’s duels have been on African terrain but there is a good level of confidence Nigerians have of our Oyibo gaffer. 

3. Healthy looking team spirit: I can’t ever remember and forgive me if its just me and my shortsightedness but I don’t think of any generation of Super Eagles that occasionally had as much off-the-pitch fun videos as this crop. Well, there wasn’t any Twitter Or Instagram or Facebook by 1994 but even in Oliseh’s Eagles at the peak of social media, we had more stories of fights than fun filled inside scoop. Nowadays, we are seeing more than just inside scoop from camp but a bunch of players looking genuinely happy. A group of players who look like they’re proud to be representing Nigeria. 

This is my perspective and I hope it’s not just a buzz happening in my head. Enjoy the game tonight from wherever you’re watching from. 

Back tomorrow, 

‘EnyimbaEnyi 

We draw Bidvest Wits and something from the past 

Good morning guys, 

So yesterday, we drew South African Champions, Bidvest Wits in the next round of the CAF Confederations Cup. The rest of the Nigerian Continent MFM, Akwa United and Plateau United all got their foes too; Djoliba, Al Hilal and USM Alger in that order. Well, guys, here’s the real business of the competition. The first legs are for April 6-8 while the return dates are for April 17th and 18th. 

Bidvest Wits did a “Plateau United” last season, winning their domestic title. That’s what the news outlets say but if you want to learn more about the team, look at their finishes for the past five years. 2012/2013 they finished 4th. 2013/2014 – 3rd. 2014/2015 – 3rd, 2015/2016- 2nd before they won the title last season. I don’t know about you but that shows a side pointed in a good direction, a side consistently growing. More of that in the days ahead. 

I saw something yesterday in the FIFA website. I’ll love to share, for those who know nothing of our history. 

It is perfectly conceivable for a goalkeeper to take the plaudits and dominate newspaper back pages in the aftermath of a triumphant cup win. Every now and again it does happen. What is almost unheard of though, is when there are two of them sharing the adulations, particularly when they play for the same team.

This was the case ten years ago to this Friday when Nigerian side Enyimba spectacularly retained their CAF Champions League title – the first club to do so in 36 years. While that is noteworthy enough, the contributions of Vincent Enyeama and Dele Aiyenugba at either end of the field place the game into the category of a continental classic.

The match against Etoile Sahel of Tunisia – in their first Champions League final – was finely poised, coming off the back of a 2-1 first-leg defeat in North Africa for Enyimba. Enyeama had been on sparkling form in that game, meaning when they reconvened in Abuja – 275 miles from Enyimba’s home of Aba, because of stadium security concerns – the hosts’ away goal was all the more valuable.

Having lifted the same trophy 12 months earlier, the West Africans had been bullish all year, with defender Ajibade Omolade claiming their name would be engraved for a second time as far back as July, proclaiming: “we know we are going to lift the trophy again – by God’s grace.” That confidence seemed well stocked in front of 30,000 partisan fans as they were dominant from the off, though a well organized Etoile backline kept them at bay inside the first half hour.

Things dramatically kicked up a notch from there though, with Emeka Nwanna seemingly putting the hosts level on aggregate, only to be flagged offside. But a minute later, with the crowd still despairing, they got their break when Mohamed Miladi was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area.

As soon as that decision was blown, a somewhat surprising figure marched the length of the pitch to place the ball on the spot in the shape of Enyeama. He already had ten goals to his name in Enyimba colours, having forged a reputation as a strong spot-kick taker, but never on an occasion like this. The setting did not faze the 22-year-old though, who sent opposite number Austin Ejide the wrong way in slamming the ball home just before the break.

Just ten seconds after they had returned to the field it could have been two, with Ndidi Anumnu pouncing on an awful lapse in concentration by Kais Zouaghi, only for the Nigerian forward to lift his effort over the bar. Fans were not made to wait long though, as seven minutes later Mouri Ogunbiyi capitalized on more poor defending, steering home after Etoile failed to clear their lines to make it 3-2.

It looked like the game was soon to be a foregone conclusion, with Enyimba rampant, but Etoile against the run of play hit back through the unlikely source of Zouaghi. Captain Zoubier Baya’s free-kick found the defender’s head and his effort looped over a stranded Enyeama to silence the crowd with 30 minutes still on the clock.

Both sides pushed for a decisive goal, with Enyeama and Ejide being forced into vital stops to maintain parity. With the last of five minutes of stoppage time on the clock, and penalties imminent – as extra time was not a feature for the final – Enyimba coach Okey Emordi made what proved to be the telling roll of the dice. On the fourth official’s board was the number of eventual man of the match and player of the tournament Enyeama, with Aiyenugba wearing his gloves and prepared to enter the field solely for the shootout.

Many will have thought this gamble was one devised by Louis van Gaal with the Netherlands, as he introduced Tim Krul to stunning effect against Costa Rica to win their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ quarter-final. In fact it was at least a decade old, as Emordi had already employed the technique in dispatching Esperance on penalties in the semi-finals and plumped for the same tactic again.

It took just two kicks to pay off, as Aiyenugba produced a stunning save, high to his left, to deny Sabeur Ben Frej. With every other penalty converted it was just left to captain Obinna Nwaneri to seal a historic title, with Aiyenugba carried aloft as a hero by his team-mates.

“Successfully defending the Champions League was a lot more difficult than when we first won it last year,” Emordi reflected, who took over the reins from Kadiri Ikhana at the start of the year and was voted as CAF Coach of Year, much like his predecessor.

“Because after our triumph in 2003, Enyimba were no longer a little team on the continent and the pressure was on us to prove to our critics that our first cup win was no fluke. We are a team that makes history.”

After the event, many declared Aiyenugba’s penalty prowess was purely down to luck, but he saw it very differently. “It is wrong for anybody to see it as a chance thing. It comes to me naturally,” he explained. “The opportunity always becomes the tonic that gingers me to give it my very best. I have the knack and I psych myself up for the task which always gives the takers a lot of problems.

Back tomorrow 

‘EnyimbaEnyi 

Transfer window: the business we should do 

Good morning everyone, 

Just a couple of quick thoughts this morning. First of all, the LMC says the transfer window will be reopened in the next couple of days to allow clubs restock their playing personnel. For us at Enyimba, I don’t think we should be looking to add any fresh players, but there should be some players who should be heading toward the exit. 

I did write a while ago how that we look to have amassed way too many players than we realistically need. It’s such that with almost a third of the games played, we have players who haven’t even kicked a ball in an official game. Such players are the main subject of this post. And if I were one of them I’ll be considering it seriously. 

I know the prestigious feel of being an Enyimba player. Did I say I know? That’s a lie. I don’t. Rather I’d say. I think most NPFL players will like to be at the top of their game playing for Enyimba. But we can only have so much. We can’t have more than 35 registered players and even with this, it shuts the door to our youth players. 

Some of these guys who haven’t seen any action and know they are down the pecking order could really make a career decision for themselves. It’s almost an abomination to name names in the Nigerian Professional Football League and I would love to name names but I’ll let that pass. But a professional player who isn’t ready to accept criticism isn’t ready. Your career rests on this. 

We have certain strikers who know they will only play if there is an injury crisis at the club, how about pushing for a loan move? Guys like Emeka Obioma and Maxwell Effiom could go get used to the NPFL terrain by going away on loan. Ready destinations could include Umuahia, Owerri or Omoku. Truth is we hardly even send players out on loan which I think is a very horrible stance. 

If these guys don’t go on loan, and are only limited to bit insignificant cameos, we are in danger of stunting their growth and development. Whereas if they go, they’ll learn their trade better and they will come back as a strong boost to the team. I do hope we make the best decision for ourselves and these players. Add the fact that someone else could be paying their salaries for this period they’ll be away. 

Finally for today, I’ll like to congratulate China Acheru aka Ikwerreman who is marking his incredible feat of having watched a thousand games live at a stadium. This is nothing short of phenomenal and inspiring. And when you think that most of those games are NPFL games, it’s even more beautiful. Congratulations again sir. 

That’s all for today. 

Back tomorrow, 

‘EnyimbaEnyi 

Enyimba 3-2 Energies (5-2 aggregate): Job very well done

Good morning Guys, 

The hurdle called Energies FC of Benin Republic was disposed of yesterday although it hardly was the easiest of feats. 3-2 it ended as we scored thrice for the first time this season. Our returning strikers, Chinonso Okonkwo and Abdulrahman Bashir did all the goal work and we progress into the next round of the competition. 

The gaffer handed Bashir his first start for the club and no sooner than the game started, he introduced himself to all those who didn’t know him or his Enyimba career. Like in the reverse fixture, Energies made the worst start possible. A flurry of early goals set the tone in Cotonou, it did as well in this tie. 

But while the strikers were having it easy at the one end, our defence and indeed debutant goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa was having a mare. The Isiaka Oladuntoye and Nelson Ogbonnaya partnership hasn’t yielded much fruit and with Anaemena injured or rested, the leadership we needed in defence sadly wasn’t there. 

1-1 and then Nonso Okonkwo got our second. Moments later, Energies scored at the other end. Then Nonso got brought down in the area for a penalty. He dispatched and put the game to bed. 5-2 aggregate and it makes you wonder how things could have panned out if we rested on our laurels believing the tie was won. 

A news report early before the game said the Chairman charged them to see the reverse fixture not as a 2-0 advantage but as a deficit. That means, the team has to believe it needed to win and not play for a draw. And according to the result, it was a pep talk that worked. It wasn’t so with Plateau United who believed they would beat Etoile in Kano. They couldn’t get a second goal. 

With the other games at the weekend including MFM’s destruction up North, it means all four Nigerian teams will now play in the CAF Confederations Cup. Akwa themselves too somehow could only rely on penalty kicks to go through. They say experience and understanding of the Continental terrain is vital in how far you go in the competition. I think it’s indispensable. 

It gets tougher from here onwards but hopefully we will be ready for what’s ahead. Another positive? we can score when we need to. Really heartwarming to see. 

Back tomorrow, 

‘EnyimbaEnyi 

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