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CAF Champions League

Enyimba have huge mountain to climb after goalless Caf CL draw with Al-Hilal

12:29 PM WAT 16/09/2019
Usman-Abd'Allah-Enyimba
The Aba giants failed to make home advantage count...and now have it all to do in the return leg in Omdurman

It doesn't need to be emphasised how important home wins are in African competition, because away journeys can be ominous and unpredictable, and a home game represents the best shot at making an expected outcome happen.

Enyimba failed in this regard, by recording a 0-0 draw with Sudan's Al-Hilal in Aba in the first leg of the Caf Champions League first round this weekend, and have left themselves with much to do in the return leg.

The People's Elephant were the dominant side and had the better chances, Reuben Bala with perhaps the best opportunity, but he fluffed his lines after brilliant build-up from Chukwuka Onuwa.

It is baffling how such golden chances could be blown away considering the stakes, with Enyimb aware that the visitors came with the mindset of 'parking the bus' and hoping for the best.

When Al-Hilal were reduced to 10 men, after Bazar Hamid Nassir was shown a straight red card in the 20th minute of play, it should have brought out more attacking urgency from Enyimba, but they failed to threaten, and at the end of the day, the men from Sudan that will be very pleased with the result.

Prior to kick-off, Head of the Al-Hilal delegation, Muhammad Harun, told Goal that his side were not scared of their opponents.

“We are not scared of meeting [Enyimba], because to be a champion in Africa you have to be ready to play other champions.”

Indeed, the Blue Waves will take confidence from this result, and can go into the second leg in Omdurman knowing they have home advantage. They won't miss the opportunity like their opponents did in Aba.

For context, Sudan is not a happy haunting ground for Nigerian sides. The most recent encounter in the Northeast African country saw Rivers United pummelled 4-0 by Al-Merreikh in the second leg of the 2017 Caf Champions League First Round, having comfortably won the first leg 3-0 in Port-Harcourt.

This is not to say all hope is lost for Enyimba; it is very possible for them to get a score draw, which would be enough to make it into the group phase on the away goals rule.

They can also get an outright victory like they did against this same opponent in the 2011 edition of the Champions League, claiming a big 2-1 win in Omdurman, after drawing 2-2 in Aba.

This was in the group phase though, and seeing that this First Round tie will guarantee a spot in the next round, the most important factor is that Usman Abdallah's must come out with more urgency in the final third and now find the net away from home.

If the Aba giants can't go for the jugular early on in a bid to unsettle their hosts, it might as well be game over, just as happened to Kano Pillars against Ghana’s Asante Kotoko in the previous round.

Nigerian fans will then have to deal with not seeing a representative in the Champions League group phase for the second time in three years.

Hopefully, things turn in Enyimba's favour in a fortnight, but at this stage, it appears likely that they'll regret their inability to find a cutting edge in front of their own fans.