Inside The 90’: Elephants bow out of the continent

A repeat of the miracle under the floodlight was needed and much more for Enyimba to overturn a 4-1 first leg deficit against Pyramids FC in Aba.

The task was always going to take something special; the wave of a magic wane, a moment of extraordinary brilliance, an act of ingenuity, just anything. Someone needed to hug the headlines on a Monday morning to the endearing Enyimba faithfuls. But it wasn’t to be.  

Ibrahim Said’s 32nd minute strike meant Enyimba needed to score four times to force a penalty shootout. Anayo Iwuala provided a glimmer  of hope in the 40th minute with a superb curler, but that was as good as it got for the home team. One apiece on the day and a 5-2 aggregate score in favour of Pyramids who qualified for the semis.

Thus, behind the expectant and believing football atmosphere; here are the major talking points from Enyimba’s 1-1 draw against Pyramids FC.

The Ozor show

Philip Ozor was a  surprise inclusion ahead of club captain Austin Oladapo. In some sort of a tactical move Ozor made good his coach’s trust with a scintillating display.

Ozor got the whole team ticking, with his close control, short intricate passing, nimble footwork, and exceptional vision – it was an Iniesta-esque performance.

The central midfielder almost drew first blood when he let fly  a shot from about 40 yards that was destined for the top corner only to be tipped over the bar by Egyptian’s first choice goalie  El Shanawy.

However, Ozor was stretchered off in the first 5 minutes of the second half after he got injured in an off the ball incident. A sad end to a superlative performance, one that will  pass for a man of the match award.

The three musketeers

Farouk Mohammed, Cyril Olisema, and Philip Ozor were great partners in business on the day. The trio ran the show effortlessly; linking up play with the attackers, locating one another in pocket of spaces, and giving the Egyptians lot of problems tracking their runs and movements.

But for profligacy Enyimba would have been at least three goals up in the opening 30 minutes, with misses from Victor Mbaoma and Anayo Iwuala proving costly at fulltime.

The Elephants midfield was simply unplayable in the first half.

Déjà vu?

Judging from the first leg in Cairo, only a near perfect display was an acceptable template in a bid to upturn the result.

It was always a tough task to stay error free against a high pressing Pyramids side, and disaster stroke 15 minutes to halftime when a back pass from Nelson Ogbonnaya was intercepted by the on rushing Ibrahim Said who hit a first time shot into the net. 

A familiar sight, a sinking feeling, and one that made the task at hand harder.

Sometimes you have got to be streetwise and the Elephants having faced three North African sides in the competition must have learnt a lesson or two.

It was indeed a memorable participation for the lads, one that delivered the good, the bad, and the ugly as long as it lasted.

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