Fallen Heros: Enyimba shock Africa, Wolves stand tall, Minnows close the gap on favourites in FA Cup.
A spot of sun, a brisk breeze and an aperitif. It was supposed to be a soiree like many Nigerians expected, what we didn’t know is the catastrophic news we would be treated to. It wasn’t expected, as it looked like the actors had mastered their parts. Warri wolves had booked qualification in a rather worrying manner. Playing a goalles draw at Ethiopia ensured they qualified 2-0 on aggregate. This was expected so no qualms.
After 80 minutes of action Enyimba’s 1-0 aggregate lead remained intact, ten more minutes (or fifteen minutes at best) and it will be all over; now Kingsley Sokari is sent off for a second bookable offence. Afterwards, they fell like a park of cards. First a penalty is conceded, a goal is scored from the resulting penalty; and with few seconds of normal time remaining, surely they can hang on to it dearly but No! Hang on for few more seconds and that takes it to penalties. Next the deciding goal is scored on the 90th minute how on earth did that happen in the spcae of 8 minutes? How did they lose concentration and let in 2 crucial goals? Surely playing behind closed doors has its own disadvantages, it is harder to concentrate at the tail end of a game when the fans are not screaming, booing or even insulting you at times. But with the experience in this Enyimba, a loss of concentration is surely not a haven.
What then is the matter? The appointment of a Tunisian official meant they were hard done? Errm….isn’t that becoming a cliche now? That said, CAF cannot continue in that light. Appointing officials with a geographical advantage favouring one team (the home team in these case) can be equally provoking. The slighest decision that doesn’t favour the “disadvantaged” team is seen as sabotage and that alone is enough to dampen the morale of the affected players. CAF would have done themselves a lot of good appointing an official from either South or East Africa. An official who hasn’t “offended” either team in the past and has nothing in connection with these countries.
Now let’s talk about the team many now consider to be “local champions”. Kano Pillars have now failed to reach the Second round for the third consecutive year. Needing only a good win to make the aggregate score a respectable one – no one really expected a miracle after that debacle in Morocco – yet they trailed again to Mouhcine Iajour’s goal after 33 minute, his 4th in about 125 minutes against Kano Pillars. Iajour is not new to scoring really important goals; top scorer at the FIFA Club World Cup and also finished with the Bronze ball while playing for Raja Casablanca. At CHAN 2014 he scored once against the home based Super Eagles before a spirited second half performance helped overturn a 3-0 deficit against Morocco, Iajour is the same man whose first half Hattrick in the prevoius encounter literally decided the tie and the Moroccoan champions won in the manner champions win; and Kano Pillars were the unfortunate recipient.
It is a time of sober reflection, how did Nigerian teams suddenly become poor performers on the continental scene? How did we move from having two teams in the semi-finals in 2009 – Kano Pillars and Heartland infact faced off – to not having a team in the Group stage since 2012? The NFF and LMC cannot be faulted in anyway, infact they played their parts rightly and gave every needed support and promptly too. Overall, Nigeria have only one team left in the continent whereas Congo DR and Algeria still have all FOUR teams in both the Champions League and Confederations Cup. Sigh
Other talking points
If scoring 9 minutes into a tie when playing away from home was a major blow, then scoring 2 more in the final four minutes of the second leg is even harder to take. Raja Casablanca conveniently knocked out Kaizer Chiefs 3-0 on aggregate and Osaguona Ighodaro scored all three goals in the tie. He is currently the top scorer of the champions league with five goals.
Watford held Derby to a 2-2 draw guess who starred? Well, no prizes for guessing that correctly. An attempted clearance ricocheted off Ighalo’s foot and nicely set-up Matej Vydra for the opener and then he put his team level; that’s his 18th league goal of the season.
The Federation cup have a number of shock exits already, but Sharks FC, Akwa United, Giwa FC, Bayelsa United and to cap it all up Nassarawa United losing the final to their feeders? Sunshine stars will be delighted with that news, they have been knocked out by the solid miners in each of the last two years.
Article by: Tolu Olorunmoteni