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CAF Confederation Cup

Caf Confederation Cup: Djoliba victory keeps Enyimba in good shape

14:19 GMT+3 09/05/2018
Rivers United vs. Enyimba
The People’s Elephant have started the group phase of the second tier-competition in fine fashion, and will be aiming for a long run in the tournament

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Of the four Nigerian clubs that played in the Caf Champions League and Confederation Cup this year, only seven-time national champions Enyimba are still standing.

The People’s Elephant made it into the group phase after dispatching South African outfit Bidvest Wits 2-1 on aggregate in the final qualification round, and were paired in a favourable Group C with Williamsville AC of the Ivory Coast, the Republic of Congo’s CARA Brazzaville and Malian outfit Djoliba AC

Enyimba are the top dogs in Group C, and have lived up that billing with an opening 2-0 win over Djoliba on Sunday in Calabar. The Malian side knocked Mountain of Fire FC out in the previous round, notably claiming a 1-0 victory in Lagos.

However, it was a comfortable display from Paul Aigbogun’s men, with Isiaka Oladuntoye and Stanley Dimgba getting the goals. The People’s Elephant next face CARA Brazzaville in the Congolese capital, and the Nigerians are unlikely to be fazed by this. They've already shown strong character on their continental trips this year, as evidenced by their 2-0 win over Energie FC in Cotonou and 1-1 draw against Wits in Johannesburg.

The trip to Brazzaville ought to take Enyimba one step closer to the knockouts.

Williamsville are one time runners-up in the Ivorian Ligue 1 and are making their continental debut this year.

CARA Brazzaville are one of the most successful Congolese clubs with nine domestic titles to their name, but it's been a while since they conquered the continent in 1974.

Djoliba are arguably Enyimba’s biggest threat, in that they are most successful Malian club with over 20 domestic titles to their name. They have been a regular fixture in the Caf competitions, reaching the final of the 2012 Confed Cup, before losing 4-3 on aggregate to Congolese side AC Leopards.

However, Sunday’s 2-0 win should give the men from Aba the needed psychological boost to kick on and consolidate top spot in the group.

This is Enyimba’s second appearance in the Confederation Cup after their maiden outing in 2010 where they reached the final playoff round, losing 4-2 on aggregate to Zambia’s Zanaco.

Having not tasted ultimate glory since lifting the Champions League back to back in 2003 and 2004, this is their big chance to write their name in Africa’s second-tier club competition. They will also want to fly the flag of Nigeria well as the country’s only surviving team, and help the NPFL restore their two places for each of the continent's competitions.

Enyimba’s form in the Nigeria Professional Football League this year should also give them the required confidence to succeed on the continent.

They have lost just two games all season, dropping points at home only twice, while managing to earn seven stalemates on the road, the highest of any side in the top flight.

That is an impressive return, and the fact that they are not far from the continental slots on the log, even with outstanding games still to play, shows they are handling the rigours of playing on domestic and continental fronts well.

Aigbogun’s men are looking primed for a long run in the competition, and if all goes according to the script, they could very well replicate their heroics of 2003 which saw them crowned league and continental champions.