COMMENT By Kunle Fayiga Follow on Twitter
Enyimba headed into their second leg Caf Confederation Cup semi-final clash with Moroccan giants Raja Casablanca as the clear underdogs, and seeing that they were on the back foot after a 1-0 first leg loss in Aba, it was expected that they’d at least show some fighting spirit and burning desire to get a result at the Stade Mohammed V on Wednesday night.
It didn’t prove to be the case, as the 2003 Caf Champions League winners simply chased shadows for the entire 90 minutes, losing 2-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate.
The early exchanges saw Usman Abdallah’s men have more of the ball, but could not bring anything to life, while the Green Eagles were content to just keep things easy. The Moroccans had their moment just before the halftime whistle after a defensive error from Isiaka Oladuntoye and the stable Theophilus Afelokhai allowed Zakaria Hadraf to pounce into the empty net.
And it's all over for Enyimba.— Solace Chukwu (@TheOddSolace) October 24, 2018
Enyimba still lacked a vibe in the second half, and their miserable night was compounded when Oladuntoye put the ball into his own net in the 88th minute. Substitute Abdulrahman Bashir got a consolation for the men in blue a minute later, but the damage had been done already.
This was the biggest test for the Aba giants in the Confederation Cup but they failed to make it count. They might have topped Group C ahead of CARA Brazzaville, Williamsville and Djoliba, as well as dispatching Rayon Sports in the quarter-finals, but they had to work their socks off when it should have been an easy run.
If only Enyimba didn't concede in Aba, if only Isiaka didn't make such a silly error, if only Enyimba had gotten an early goal, if only ...— Queen john (@Queenjohn4) October 24, 2018
It is therefore no surprise that Raja Casablanca were able to dispatch them both home and away with consummate ease.
This beckons the point that Enyimba should not have been in the Confederation Cup this year and were not prepared for it. We could blame the abruptly-concluded Nigeria Professional Football League and the poorly-planned Federation Cup, but there was simply no zeal from the players.
They were playing like it was for the fun of it, and were a far cry from the dominant team that sent shivers down the spine of African teams in time past.
The frontline and midfield are the most guilty in this regard, failing to connect and create enough chances to put games to bed.
Rather, they waste the ball and wait late to make it stick.
That might have happened in the group phase and quarters, but Raja Casablanca are head and shoulders above those sides. The Moroccans clearly demonstrated that, to win and kill a game off, you gather momentum early and then control the flow of the game.
Ultimately, Enyimba walk home with no silverware for the third year running and won’t return to the continent next time either.
It's a disappointing conclusion, but no one at the club can say that they deserved better.