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CAF Confederation Cup

Enugu Rangers can overcome Etoile du Sahel setback

16:44 EAT 26/02/2019
Enugu Rangers coach Ogunbote
The Flying Antelopes lost their first game in the continental competition, but there’s still a lot to be positive about
Enugu Rangers headed into their Caf Confederation Cup Group B tie with Etoile du Sahel in confident spirits having gone unbeaten in the competition since their journey began last November.

Indeed, the Flying Antelopes had already avoided defeat away to Defence Force of Ethiopia, USM Bel Abbes of Algeria and Bantu FC of Lesotho during the qualification rounds, and had already picked up a strong point at CS Sfaxien in the group phase.

Therefore, there was hope that another big result was going to come out of the Stade Olympique de Sousse on Sunday night.

Things were heading that way, with Bright Silas opening proceedings in the 15th minute. However, Rangers' advantage was short-lived, as Etoile equalised 20 minutes later before Saddam Ben Aziza gave them the lead in the 64th minuts. The game ultimately ended 2-1 in favour of Roger Lemerre’s side.

The result meant that Rangers suffered their first defeat in nine Confed Cup games, bringing an end to their impressive run.

The Enugu State capital club may also feel they could have snatched a win if they had not let their guard down.

The two goals they conceded were a result of poor defending, especially the second, where the backline looked confused and didn't take the simple option of clearing effectively.

There were also queries about the quality of the officiating, with referee Norman Matemera making some dubious decisions against Rangers. Notably, in the build-up to Etoile’s winner, he missed an earlier infringement from the Tunisians.

The defeat leaves the Flying Antelopes in third, tied with ESS on four points,and one behind group leaders CS Sfaxien. Be under no illusion, Rangers are firmly in the running to progress.

Next, the 2016 Nigeria Professional Football League champions host Etoile, before travelling to Burkina Faso to tackle Salitas. They conclude their campaign at home against Sfaxien.

Having faced their toughest opponents away, Rangers can have confidence heading into the return leg in the Coal City.

Credit has to be given to Gbenga Ogunbote for how he’s marshalled this side, and how he continues to get the best out of the likes of Silas, Ibrahim Ajani, Godwin Aguda and Isaac Loute.

They've improved signficantly since the 2017 campaign, when they dropped out of the Caf Champions League at the final qualification round and couldn’t make it into the Confed Cup group phase after losing heavily to ZESCO United in the playoffs.

This proves that their epic Federation Cup triumph last year, coming back from three goals down before seeing off Kano Pillars via penalties in Asaba, was no fluke.

Ogunbote does have what it takes to take Rangers far, having done superbly with Sunshine Stars in the 2011 Champions League and 2012 Confederation Cup against tough opposition like Maghreb de Fez, JS Kabylie and ASO Chlef en route the semi-finals of both tournaments.

Sunday's defeat in Sousse will definitely be painful, but it need not be fatal for this Rangers side, who are certainly capable of escaping the group.