Enyimba left Benghazi on Thursday night with just too much to do as the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup enters its final lap.
The two-time African champions succumbed to a narrow 1-0 loss to Al Ahly Benghazi at the Martyrs of February Stadium. Mutassem Al Taib’s fortuitous strike ensured the Libyans leapfrogged Enyimba to place second in Group A; a result that means Osho’s men must beat Orlando Pirates by a score better than the 1-2 loss suffered in the first fixture in Pretoria to be assured of progress from the group.
High-octane, one-dimensional, and highly eventful clash, here are the major talking points from Enyimba’s narrow defeat in Libya.
MORE LIKE IT?
Coach Fatai Osho in his post-match reaction said it was “quite an improved performance” from the boys. A sentiment I also share having seen the last two outings away from home in Soweto and Setif.
Enyimba closed down quickly, charged down their opponent, fought for the 50:50 balls, and reduced Ahly Benghazi chances to shots from range which never troubled the goalkeeper. Judging from the travel problems, negligible time to settle, and magnitude of the game; to be fair to the boys, it was a more improved performance on the road, and more like it.
UNLUCKY JOHN NOBLE
John Noble has more often than not received praises for his outstanding contribution to his team’s quest for glory this season.
Right from the play-off round, Noble’s brilliant performances in goal has left many pondering where the Elephants would have been without him.
However, Noble became the villain on Thursday night when he failed to parry Al Taib’s shot to safety watching the ball agonizing end in the back of his net. Unlucky John Noble, as the goal turned out to be the decider of the tie.
The loss at Benghazi was one with consequences. Captain Austin Oladapo, one of Enyimba’s most outstanding players of the season pulled up injured in the 53rd minute of the game unchallenged.
Oladapo who has scored three goals in the Confederation cup this season was quite lively on the night taking shots from range. He controlled the game quite nicely in midfield with smooth passing alongside Philip Ozor and Dare Olatunji.
Although no timeline has been set for his potential return to action, the skipper is certainly ruled out of the next game after picking up his third yellow on Thursday night.
10 LOOKS GOOD
As surprising as it may seem, Enyimba played better when they played a quarter of an hour with ten men. Timothy Danladi was sent off in the 74th minute after a reckless tackle just in front of the box.
Coach Osho introduced some fresh legs to see off the game and it was a much better performance as the boys went in search of a leveller.
Unfortunately the Nigerian champions couldn’t grab an equalizer, but the 10 men on the pitch gave a good account of themselves.
A herculean task now awaits Enyimba on the final day of action, a little bit of work and luck should guarantee the Elephants’ passage to the quarterfinals of the CAF Confederation Cup.