NPFL Final Day 17: How Enyimba’s Champions League Dreams Crashed

Enyimba captain, Mfon Udoh
By
Clement Nwankpa Jr

Enyimba’s
Chairman, Felix Anyansi-Agwu’s countenance after Rangers forced his
boys to a 1-1 draw in Enugu spoke volumes.

You
would have expected him to be happy after news emerged that Akwa
United had lost in Ibadan but he obviously had other ideas.

Shooting
Stars beating Akwa United thrust Enyimba into third position, needing
a win of any sort against Katsina United on the last day to book a
CAF Confederation Cup ticket irrespective of what happens in Uyo.

That
his boys got a result Akwa United failed to get in Ibadan should make
Anyansi-Agwu one of the happiest men around the arena but his mood
was shockingly different.

He
was among the last to leave as he was glued to his seat long after
the final whistle. Hands on his jaw, he gazed into space and couldn’t
mutter a word. Obviously, bemoaning a lost opportunity. When he
managed to rise from his seat, he took the ‘long’ walk speaking to no
one. He was battling hard to subdue his emotions. Men also cry, you
know.

His
expectations may have been heightened by the fact that his boys led
till four minutes of regulation time left. At that point, the
prospect of leaving Enugu with maximum points was more appealing. If
Chibuzor Madu didn’t convert the late penalty that shared the spoils,
Enyimba was primed to secure a Champions League ticket if they beat
Katsina and MFM fails to win in Maiduguri on the last day.

This
was Anyansi-Agwu’s ideal scenario. While a return to the continent,
whatever competition, is paramount, Enyimba always crave to play in
the more illustrious Champions League. Why not? The People’s
Elephants are two-time African champions and are always comfortable
mixing with the continent’s best.

The
hunger in Enyimba was highlighted in the way they approached the game
against Wikki Tourists on match day 36, well aware that only a high
scoreline will boost their ambitions. The 4-0 scoreline would have
served as a fillip to their quest for the bigger pie.

Enyimba’s
emphatic defeat of Wikki made Akwa rue missed chances in the 2-1
victory over Lobi two days earlier. Suddenly, the teams were tied on
both points and goals difference. Hitherto, Akwa had a superior goals
difference, an advantage that would have come to the fore if both
teams ended up with the same points.

Match
day 37 results changed all these. If both teams lost, it would have
come down to who conceded or scored more goals. The emphasis on the
last match day would have been on the number of goals scored if they
record routine wins at home. But Enyimba’s draw in Enugu places them
in third position on 58 points, one ahead of Akwa.

The
tie on points and goals difference has been broken. Enyimba is now in
the driving seat in the battle for the Confederation Cup ticket. Akwa
must beat Kano Pillars in Uyo while hoping Enyimba doesn’t win
against Katsina. But, while Akwa needs favours from Katsina, Enyimba
needs no such favours from anyone. All they need to do is beat
Katsina and the ticket is in the bag irrespective of what happens in
Uyo. This highlights the importance of that solitary point in Enugu.

So
while Anyansi-Agwu might play Oliver Twist, he should also take into
cognizance the other possible scenarios. What if Enyimba lost and
Akwa won in Ibadan? What if Akwa had also drawn in Ibadan? What if
the Promise Keepers had even won? Enyimba would have been on the back
foot. Now, the ticket is theirs to lose.

Not
a few believe Akwa has played the best football all season. They are
even good enough to pick a Champions League ticket but Enyimba’s
experience in season run-ins shone through. It is not yet Uhuru but
the knack to get decisive results at crucial moments has made the
task easier for the seven-time Nigerian champions. And it is Akwa’s
failure to get such key results that has been their bane.

But,
while these teams’ aspirations have been limited to the Confederation
Cup ticket, MFM should be grateful to Madu for not missing the late
minute spot kick against Enyimba. MFM coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu has
been talking tough, fancying his team’s chances of beating Elkanemi
in Maiduguri while wishing Plateau bottle it against Rangers paving
the way for the Olukoya boys to win the title. Ilechukwu can now
concentrate on overhauling Plateau at the top since he has no cause
to look over his shoulders.

One
man’s meat, another’s poison. Anyansi-Agwu’s loss, Ilechukwu’s gain. 

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*