After a gruelling 180 minutes of football against compatriots Rivers United in the play-off round of the Confederation Cup, it was time for Enyimba to reset, get settled, and knuckle down for the main event.
In a tensed match day one encounter of the group stage against Al Ahly Benghazi of Libya, The People’s Elephant were streetwise under the scorching heat of the Enyimba City; Austin Oladapo’s piledriver gave the host the lead in the 10th minute, but, the celebration was short-lived when Abdallah Imhamed slotted in a penalty for the visitors in the 18th minute, and just before half-time, Victor Mbaoma restored Enyimba’s lead with a close range finish to give the host a 2-1 win and three points at the first time of asking.
However, behind the composed display, we’ll highlight the somewhat unnoticed major talking points from the 2-1 win at the Enyimba Stadium.
A captain’s contribution
“Of great power comes great responsibility,” a phrase that could best describe Enyimba’s armband bearer Austin Oladapo. Since his installment as captain of the club, Oladapo has stepped up, leading from the front, and leaving everything he’s got on the pitch. From a commanding display against Rivers United, to a goal scoring contribution against Akwa United; his contributions so far this season has been colossal. However, his goal against Ahly Benghazi was jaw dropping, pinning the goalkeeper to a spot, and hitting the ball sweetly with his immaculate left foot into the top corner, a goal from nothing; that was indeed a captain’s contribution.
A Breath of fresh air
It seems like a longtime since Enyimba FC last had a strong start to a game, recent encounters have been characterised by slow starts, sloppy play, and gifting of chances to opponents; it was a full circle turn against Ahly Benghazi, a big relief to the manager.
Coach Fatai Osho sprung up a few surprises; energetic forward Samson Obi, marauding right-back Stanley Okorom, and midfielder Dayo Ojo were introduced into the starting XI. The introductions seemed to have freshened things up, and most importantly a week of rest after a midweek clash in the league against Warri Wolves must have been the tonic for a lively display.
The awesome four
Every good team in the history of football has got a spine, players that make the team thick, and Enyimba have got theirs so far this season.
Full of running, trickery, dragging opponents out of positions, and drawing fouls, winger Anayo Iwuala was a handful for the Ahly Benghazi defence. Another outstanding display from the pacy forward.
Ability to sense danger, shield the back four, and put in well timed tackles has been synonymous with Anthony Omaka all season long. Where will the Elephants be without their gladiator?
Ice cold composure in clearances, blocks, interception, and aerial duels has characterized Nelson Ogbonnaya this season, and the bullish defender was in his elements against the Libyan side.
Enyimba’s last line of defence marshalled by goalkeeper John Noble has been more than reliable, such has been his performances this season which has culminated in a maiden call-up to the national team. Noble made a great save from an attempted lob to keep his side in the driving seat, an invaluable contribution in the game.
Take nothing away from the boys, it was a complete team performance.
A professional display from the boys and more so three points in the kitty. Enyimba’s next tie will be an away fixture against Orlando Pirates in Soweto on Wednesday 17th March.