You would be forgiven for thinking that Enugu Rangers are one of the teams who just got promoted to the elite of Nigerian club football given their woeful performance in the CAF Champions League on Sunday.
On the day their counterpart Rivers United were showing their Champions League credentials by dismantling El-Merreikh of Sudan, Rangers performance against Zamalek in Egypt does not in any way mirror that of the reigning champions of the Nigerian Premier League.
It was the Nigerian player with Zamalek, Stanley Ohawuchi that set the tone for the day; scoring in the 8th minute before Hossam Salama increased the tally just before half-hour mark.
The rampaging Zamalek team were far from done as Ayman Hefni made it 3-0 on the 34th minute to take a healthy lead into the second half.
Rangers gave a better performance in the second half but Mostafa Fathi breached the Rangers defense again in the 54th minute.
Rangers were looking down and out before Charles Negedu scored a vital away goal in the 84th minute to give the Flying Antelopes a glimmer of home going into the second leg billed for the Coal City.
In sharp contrast, Rivers United moved closer to the group stage of the CAF Champions League as they beat El-Merreikh, 3-0 in Port Harcourt on Sunday. A brace from Guy Kuemian and another goal by Esosa Igbinoba gave Rivers United the victory ahead of the second leg scheduled for Sudan next week.
The home team started the game with purpose and could have taken the lead as early as the first minute of the game, when Kuemian dribbled past Magola Salim in goal for the opponents, but Lukman Mohammed’s ball into the empty net was cleared off the line for a corner kick.
Rivers United continued their foray into the opponents, half and were rewarded with the first goal in the 15th minute through Kuemian. With El-Merreikh players trying to settle down, Kuemian scored his second just a minute after the first in the 16th minute. Igbinoba put the icing on the cake with the third goal in the 82nd minute to end any hope of the Sudanese getting anything out of the game.
Former Enyimba midfielder, Nzube Anaezemba, was a threat from the middle as his combination with Kuemian was top class. The Sudanese had their chances with Bakary Babeecar almost getting on the score sheet in the first half but goalkeeper Sunday Rotimi with the help of the upright bar saved the ball.
Former Dolphins striker, Kelechi Osunwa, who was in the attack for the visitors, was marked out in the first half and it came as no surprise when he failed to emerge from the dressing room for the second half.
The different experience for the two Nigerian clubs shows exactly the problem they need to overcome on the continent – knowing how to play away matches.
This writer cannot remember the last time a Nigerian team got an away victory at an international level. Even right home in Nigeria, getting an away victory was a rare phenomenon until recently.
Nigerian clubs need to dispel the thinking that they only need to perform at home in order to progress. Is it any wonder that the country’s clubs failure to reach the business end of the CAF organised competitions coincided with their poor away records?
The administrators in the league must come together to fashion a way to increase teams’ competitiveness away from home as that is the only way football in the country can develop.
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