Now that’s how to respond. When you’re faced with a Goliath-like opposition, where few people including a section of your own fans gave you a chance, in a stadium three hours from your home ground, this is just how to refresh their minds of your quality.
The gaffer made an almost predictable line-up with Abu Azeez and Christian Pyagbara starting in attack. Ibenegbu and Dare Ojo paired in midfield while Mfon Udoh and Joe Osadiaye were on the flanks. Uche John continued at Right back while Chima Akas was at the opposite end. ‘Safe-hands’ Theo was in goal but the biggest shock was Anaemena and Udoji in central defence.
One would have thought Emma Anyanwu who I believed is a calmer defender would have been given a nod but he was only good enough for the bench. Anaemena got the start and on the basis of his performance, that decision was a masterstroke. It was justified by how the two Center backs complimented themselves nicely. All through the game.
We were off to a flier and in our first attack of the game we nearly scored. Mfon Udoh escaped down their right and drove into the area. His strike from the move just flashed narrowly wide. Little did we know it was a foretaste of things to come. Pyagbara was next to go close for us before the visitors nearly ‘poured sand into our garri‘.
From a corner kick, they worked the ball to the back post and it fell kindly to one of their players. The guy hit it first time but unfortunately for him, he was faced with the one defender he ought not to have been faced with. Chinedu Udoji threw himself at the ball to block a certain goal. Earlier when the team had alighted from the bus, I had the chance to see him first before the others. His eyes told me all I needed to know. Ice cold focus defined.
That block was the foundation of the goal which came shortly. Osadiaye was brought down in their area and the referee pointed to the spot. Mfon Udoh stepped up, picked up the ball and easily tucked it into the bottom Corner. Their goalkeeper (who I think had a fantastic game generally, aside his time wasting antics) guessed right but he wasn’t quick enough and we were ahead. 1-0.
The rest of the first half saw us come close time and time again. Pyagbara and Abu Azeez were giving their defenders the turnaround but what just wouldn’t happen was a second goal. But we wouldn’t wait long into the second half for that. They fouled one of our players at the edge of their box, close to the corner flag. Akas would tee up Ojo who hit his bullet toward goal. It looked headed in actually but it hit Mfon’s outstretched leg, wrongfooting the goalkeeper and flying into the top left for our second.
The belief was growing while for the visitors, they kept up some really shameful antics. Time and time again their technical bench would line up in their numbers protesting the referee’s decisions and they did take turns in kicking at some of our players. Their goalkeeper would take 3450 seconds to play his goal-kick. Once their coach did enter into their field and at some point the referee had to send one of them to the stands. They did get no fewer than 5 Yellow Cards including a red card. There was yet another one that should have been a second Yellow for a player who kicked at Udoji. But the referee was struggling to keep things under control.
Well back to the game, we did get our third and it was Mfon Udoh of 2013 all over. He had a nice ‘give and go’ with Dare Ojo and ghosted into their area from their left. Nicely created space for himself and let fly. Ever heard the expression ‘no keeper in the world could have caught that’? That’s just it. Fierce and hot and into the top end. 3-0.
Windy rains descended soon afterwards and we tried to get a fourth and to see the game out. We didn’t the former but expertly the later. To be honest, we had expected a tougher fight from Etoile. From what we heard prior to the game, we nearly thought it was Barcelona we were playing, we were mistaken. This however does not in any way take away the brilliance of our players. I dare say we played a lot better yesterday than we had all season. Vital’O 5-1 included.
Of course the tie is far from over but if you won’t celebrate a 3-0 win over one of Africa’s best teams then you need your head to be thoroughly reexamined. The reactions from the game will continue here on the blog tomorrow. But this surely is a good morning to be an Enyimba fan.