Enyimba striker Mfon Udoh
Monday May 02, 2016. 10:13
Sunday’s NPFL clash between Enyimba and Lobi pointed towards a thriller and it didn’t disappoint. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. Enyimba opened scores in the 28th
minute through Abu Azeez, while Barnabas Imenger Jr. leveled up for Lobi in the 44th
minute. Solomon Kwambe gave Lobi the lead in the 52nd
minute, but Chinedu Udoji struck in the 85th
minute to give Enyimba a share of the spoils. The quality of the game put the NPFL in good light.
Here are 5 things we learnt…
(1)CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, UDOJI
We all watch John Terry at Chelsea, but there is a Nigerian version in Enyimba’s Chinedu Udoji. As he was being interviewed by the press after the game, a section of the crowd screamed ‘captain fantastic’ while another was overheard shouting ‘this is our own John Terry’. That summed up Udoji’s impact in the game. He was the reason a lacklustre Enyimba didn’t lose. At a point, the entire team faltered as all pointed towards a home loss for the People’s Elephant, Udoji nodded in the equalizer in the 85th
minute. He took things personally and almost got the winner in added time, but his goal-bound header was cleared off the line by Lobi defenders. Surely, if Enyimba didn’t have Udoji, Lobi would have taken all three points.
(2) JADED ENYIMBA
The league defending champions appear tired. The team looked anything but champions in this game. They rarely posed a threat to the visitors and lacked cohesion. They were simply there for the taking. Coach Paul Aigbogun would later attribute this to the number of games the team have played in the past two weeks from the Champions League to the domestic scene. The game against Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia that stretched to penalties was most exhilarating. The team seem not to have recovered from the energy dissipated in securing that Champions League group stage ticket.
(3) NPFL TALL ORDER FOR ENYIMBA, HAVE THEY PRIORITISED CHAMPIONS LEAGUE?
The way teams lord it over Enyimba in the domestic scene these days, one gets the feeling they could have placed less premium on the NPFL while setting a target of winning the Champions League. Udoji enthused: “We will keep fighting for the league”, but that enthusiasm doesn’t show on the pitch. The likes of Mfon Udoh who light up the continent look so ordinary on the home front. But it will take some doing for Enyimba to finish in Champions League position in this season of ‘Leicesters’. Yes, they are doing it in the EPL but there could be a Leicester in the NPFL this season.
(4) KWAMBE STILL DEY KAMPE, BUT WHAT OF AKAS?
Class, they say, is permanent but form is temporary. This was a game that highlighted Solomon Kwambe’s class. He may not be involved in the national team set-up at the moment but he oozed quality and confidence all through. His deliveries from the right were top notch just as the manner he overlapped to score Lobi’s second goal. But the same cannot be said of Enyimba’s left back, Chima Akas. On the contrary, while Kwambe dominated Lobi’s right flank, Lobi’s incisive forwards found a ‘BRT’ lane on Enyimba’s left manned by Akas. Sunday Eleche and Soumaila Kone had a field day on the Nigeria international. Those of us who cover the league believe Akas is not the best left back on the local scene and he did nothing to disprove that on Sunday. One wonders how he gets national team invitations ahead of the likes of Nasarawa captain Emmanuel Makama or even Wikki’s Christopher Waziri.
(5) KONE, IMENGER…JUST LIKE RICE AND BEANS…
Something I have noticed in Lobi’s line-up this season - whenever Godwin Uwua picks Anthony Okpotu in attack, he opts for David Tyavkase in midfield, but when he picks Barnabas Imenger up front, he settles for Soumaila Kone in the play-making role. While the former pairing gives him power, the latter assures him of possession. When I saw Kone/Imenger in the starting XI with Okpotu/Tyavkase on the bench, I knew he wanted to starve Enyimba of possession. Kone’s left foot is as sweet as they come and he even spares showboats in between defence-splitting passes. Alongside his side-kick, Imenger, they terrorised Enyimba. Imenger scored the first goal and Kone it was who spotted Kwambe’s run down the right and played him through for the second.
By Clement Nwankpa Jnr