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CAF Confederation Cup

Enyimba fail to make early domination count vs. Williamsville

9:21 AM GMT 30/07/2018
Enyimba Team
The Peoples Elephant had another miserable continental outing away from home, and only have themselves to blame

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After a narrow 1-0 win in Port Harcourt, Enyimba travelled to Abidjan for the return leg of their Group C CAF Confederation Cup tie with Williamsville on Sunday.

It was a game the People’s Elephant realistically needed to get a result in to brighten their chances of making it to quarter-finals. However, a brilliant strike from Jean-Willy Kouassi and a powerful Guy Yameogo header in either half condemned the two-time Caf Champions League winners to a 2-0 defeat.

The result heaps more pressure on Usman Abdallah’s side, who have been woeful on the road, losing their earlier away game to CARA Brazzaville 3-0, conceding all the goals in the opening 19 minutes.

They managed to start on the front foot this time around though, and would have taken the lead through Stephen Chukwude if his header from a Joseph Osadiaye corner hadn't gone wide. Chukwude was also guilty of not connecting with a well-drilled cross from Ibrahim Mustapha on the left.

Within the opening 25 minutes, Williamsville were chasing shadows on their own turf as Enyimba had more of the ball, total shots and were dangerous aerially and from set pieces.  

The floodgates however opened for the Ivorian side in the 30th minute as a defence-splitting pass from Yao Kouassi found Jean-Willy, who drilled in a low shot beyond the reach of Enyimba goalie Fatau Dauda.

From that moment, everything went the way of the 2017 Ligue 1 runners-up and they made it count again as Kouakou Ettien’s corner met Yameogo as he headed the ball home 14 minutes from time.

Victory would have been possible for the seven-time Nigerian champions in Abidjan if only they converted their chances early, but their lack of creativity and failure to utilise set pieces coupled with their physical and aerial dominance played into Williamsville's hands.

Bar their two goals, the Ivoirians were not that clinical in front of goal either, but their playing low balls and using the pace of speedy players unsettled the slow Enyimba backline from time to time.

The Nigerians seemed to have no concrete plan coming to the Stade Robert Champroux, other than to try and get an early goal and defend from there. Since they couldn’t convert early, they were clueless once the Williamsville onslaught started.

A bizarre move from Enyimba saw coach Abdallah remove Osadiaye and bring on Freedom Omofoman 11 minutes after the break. Osadiaye was the bright spark for Enyimba, and if they had any hopes of a comeback, it would most likely have come from him with his pace, skill and set-piece prowess capable of wreaking havoc on the opposition.

With Djoliba seeing off CARA Brazzaville 1-0 in Bamako earlier on, Enyimba have dropped to third in Group C and now have a tough task as they travel to the Malian capital next before hosting CARA in their final group game.

The Nigeria Professional Football League is yet to resume due to the continued tussle for control of the Nigeria Football Federation between Chris Giwa and Amaju Pinnick, and this means Enyimba won’t have any competitive fixtures to play to keep the players match fit and mentally prepared.

What’s more is that Paul Aigbogun has left the reins of the club to focus on his new assignment as the Nigeria Under-20 boss, and it’s yet to be seen if caretaker boss Usman Abdallah has what it takes to make the difference.

Enyimba blew the chance for a crucial win in the Ivory Coast on Sunday, but all hope is not lost as they’ll try to seek redemption in Mali in three weeks' time.

They’ll however need to be more serious, committed and determined if they want to keep alive the dream of winning the only competition that has eluded them in their illustrious history.