CAF CONFED CUP
Nigeria’s sole survival in continental club competition, Enyimba FC look set to continue their fairy tale in the ongoing season as they attempt another stiff opposition from Raja Casablanca of Morocco.
Although the Nigerian representative may have surpassed their expectation so far in the abridged domestic season, the clash against Raja FC perhaps is the greatest challenge they will tackle this season.
Ahead of this evening’s encounter at the refurbished Enyimba International stadium, both teams have being involved mind game in the media following the inability of the visiting team to be open their traveling details thus creating an impression of a frosty relationship between the two sides.
But this evening, mind game will take the back stage as Nigeria’s most successful club on the continent attempts to continue their goal run in the second tier African club competition after the 5-1 aggregate win over Rayon Sports at the quarter final stage.
While Enyimba fans are looking forward to another impressive scoreline from the players, the Elephants must be wary of the fact that the Magreb side holds an intimidating record to have scored more goals so far in this installment.
Raja FC under Juan Carlos Garrido have scored more goals than any team so far in the tournament. In the group phase, they scored 14 goals with 13 of them Aduana Stars of Ghana and ASEC Mimosas of Côte ‘d Ivoire to top the group A.
The conceded just five goals in the phase thus showed that Enyimba FC attack must be very sharp tonight if they hoped to get the best from the home advantage bequest on them in the first leg.
Coach Usman Abdulahi must also be wary of counter attack threat of the Moroccans who so far this season also owned the best away record in the competition.
Specifically, Mahmoud Benhalib is the player to watch following his impressive goal run so far in the competition. The 22 years old supporting striker has recorded seven out of the 14 goals scored by his team in the group phase and also three more in the qualification stage.
With an intimidating record of 11 goals so far in this installment, Enyimba FC defense line need to be extra careful against any slip that could give the visiting team an away goal advantage before the return leg in Casablanca.
Two other players that Enyimba need to be wary about are Zakaria Hadraf and Mouhcine Iajour, with the duo boasting of a combined 10 continental goals. They also have history of delivering for Morocco against Nigeria in the African Nations Championship.
Hadraf scored twice in the 4-0 victory in the 2018 CHAN final on home soil. Iajour, for his part, scored in the Atlas Lions’ 4-3 extra time quarter-final defeat to the Super Eagles during the 2014 edition in South Africa.
On paper, Raja Casablanca might be the favourites to make it to the final but there is a bit of comfort in knowing that Enyimba had the better of them during the group phase of the 2011 Champions League.
The People’s Elephant beat them 2-0 thanks to strikes from Uche Kalu and Chidozie Johnson before sealing a goalless draw in Casablanca, with the Nigeria giants topping Group A while Raja finished bottom of the pile.