After a goalless draw in Kigali, the People’s Elephant needed to play for their lives in front of their own fans, and they did exactly that as they romped to a 5-1 victory to set up a semi-final clash with Moroccan giants Raja Casablanca.
This writer, in a previous post had stated that Enyimba needed to get going early, as the habit of responding late was too risky a strategy, particularly when an away goal could prove so costly.
Enyimba ended this bad habit in style, taking the lead in the 12th minute when Stanley Dimgba coolly slotted the ball past Rayon goalie Abouba Bashunga.
Although the Gikundiro would respond in the 25th minute through danger man Bonfilscaleb Bimenyimana, Utin Ikouwem made it 2-1 four minutes later to give Enyimba the lead heading into the break.
There was that sense that there was more to come in the second half, and the two-time Caf Champions League winners carried on from where they left off in the first half with Sunday Adetunji getting his first goal in the blue colours of the Aba giants three minute into the second half.
Joseph Osadiaye and Isiaka Oladuntoye would also get their names on the scoresheet in what was a surreal afternoon in Aba.
This wasn't the kind of result you'd come to expect from Nigerian sides in continental competition, let alone in the latter stages of a tournament.
We are Enyimba International, we don’t disappoint. — ThatEnyimbaFan (@EnyimbaEnyi) September 23, 2018
Rayon were a shadow of themselves all through the game, struggling to contain the barrage of attacks from Enyimba, and while they managed to end Theophilus Afelokhai’s run of clean sheets it was irrelevant in light of Enyimba's dominance.
Usman Abdallah’s men registered 21 total shots, 14 of which were on target, and this clash was a clear statement of intent.
If you’re trying to make light of this win claiming this is a weak opposition
May your original phone charger stop working. — ThatEnyimbaFan (@EnyimbaEnyi) September 23, 2018
Without captain Mfon Udoh, who remains sidelined for indiscipline, this was a wholly unexpected showing from the People's Elephant.
The record seven-time Nigerian champions face the next hurdle when they meet Moroccan heavyweights Raja Casablanca at home on October 3.
The Green Eagles ousted Enyimba’s Group C opponents CARA Brazzaville 3-1 on aggregate in their quarter-final, and must be considered favourites for the title.
While this is another big test for Enyimba, with Juan Carlos Garrido’s charges boasting of five continental titles, the performance in Aba on Sunday indicates that Enyimba have rediscovered their champions' spirit, even if it was missing before.