On the back of a disappointing 2-0 defeat at Williamsville in which they could have stolen the show, Enyimba were in for another tough outing against Malian outfit Djoliba in Bamako in Group C of the 2018 Caf Confederation Cup on Sunday night.
It was turning out to be that way in the Malian capital as coach Usman Abdallah made a couple of changes from the last outing in Abidjan, including giving new signing Sunday Adetunji, from Abia Warriors, his debut, while Theophilus Afelokhai was preferred to Ghanaian Fatau Dauda in goal.
Captain and all-time Nigeria Professional Football League top scorer Mfon Udoh also started and played for 84 minutes as he continues to make his way back into the side following his lengthy injury layoff.
Well done Theo! You were massive for us tonight! An impressive MOTM performance. pic.twitter.com/rRvX9xB5eE— Enyimba FC (@EnyimbaFC) August 19, 2018
There was no creativity in the People’s Elephant attack with the pace and trickery of Joseph Osadiaye – who was left back home, missing.
For large portions of the game both sides had an equal share of possession but failed to do anything meaningful with it. Djoliba however threatened more as the game wore on. Enyimba had goalkeeper Afelokhai to thank as he made a couple of key saves in either half to cover the blushes of a defence that was caught napping too many times.
Enyimba need to take the wages of the entire back four, put it together, and pay it to Theophilus Afelokhai. #DLBEFC— Solace Chukwu (@TheOddSolace) August 19, 2018
Things remained goalless and the Aba giants would definitely have been satisfied with such given their lacklustre performance.
However, fortune would smile on the two-time Caf Champions League winners when new boy Adetunji was fouled in the penalty area two minutes into injury time and the referee pointed straight to the spot. Another Ghanaian in Farouk Mohammed was tasked with taking the spot kick and he did not disappoint.
1-0 it ended on the night for Enyimba and it continued the trend of seeing Nigerian teams unbeaten in Malian territory this year, after Mountain of Fire FC earned draws at Real Bamako as well as Djoliba in the Champions League and Confederation Cup respectively.
The result sees Enyimba sit in second place on nine points, tied with Group C leaders CARA Brazzaville who defeated Williamsville 3-1 at home. The Congolese outfit have a better goal difference but with the People's Elephant hosting them in the final group game on August 29 2018, victory would seal their place in the quarter-final stage of the Confederation Cup.
Enyimba just carry luck play this match. They don't even deserve a point. But that's the harsh reality of life in general... It isn't fair.— Victor Kwame Sampong (@ghanaman1987) August 19, 2018
Djoliba 0-1 Enyimba
Indeed, a win is needed as Williamsville are still in the hunt with the Ivorian outfit just two points behind in third place and host already-ousted Djoliba in Abidjan.
Enyimba should not rest on their laurels just yet just because it’s a home game and victory should be in the bag. CARA have proven to be the strongest team in the tight group and the reverse encounter in Brazzaville where they scored three quick-fire goals within five minutes of the opening 19 minutes of the game is enough warning of the threat they pose.
The likelihood of Enyimba’s final Group C game actually being played is hanging up the air with Fifa set to make a decision on whether to ban all football-related activities in the country as the leadership crisis rocking the Nigerian Football Federation has failed to reach a conclusive end.
Enyimba ‘s performances on the continent have not been inspiring this year and a far cry of the solid side that won the Caf Champions League back-to-back in 2003 and 2004. Through the element of luck, they have seen results go their way and the away win in Mali is arguably the biggest and most decisive.
Now they hold their destiny in their own hands with only CARA Brazzaville and a potential Fifa ban standing in their way.