Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Enyimba United are a team that deserve respect. They play a fine and commanding game. They were able to weather the Hillal and the crowd with calm and deliberate strategy - taking out Yousef Mohammed and turning the pressure on Hillal's usually indomitable midfield. They owned midfield and Hillal was not able to play their usual cohesive and nimble 2-touch buildups from deep. Enyimba seemed like a more mature and lethal version of Asec United of Ivory Coast. If Enyimba continue to play at this level of performance then they will be one of my to 3 favourites for this year's title. Hillal will be on that shrtlist also. A team that has Iviani, Muhannad Al-Tahir, Seif Massawi and Mandella on the bench is some team!
Hats off to Nigeria, by far the best footballing nation in Africa! and one of the most fertile soccer destinations in the world. To think that Kelechi, Goodwin, Yousif Mohammed and Iviani are not even fixtures in the Nigerian National team speaks volumes.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Defender Richard Justin is making lethal mistakes that are costing goals but he did save a couple of lethal opportunities from under the feet of Enyimba's strikers. Ahmed Adil who is playing with good confidence, considering that this is his first African season, is to be commended. At this rate he will have a bright future. For now though, there is a gap in his performance with respect to gelling with Kelechi . That is not good. The lethal Kelechi-Goodwin duo is missed this year. On several opportunities, Ahmed kept the ball too long, when he could have slid it over to a well-positioned Kelechi. On other accounts Kelechi appeared….lost - hustling for the ball and trying creative penetrations but overall - displaced and lost. Iviani, inspite of a great performance, needs to stop worrying about vindicating himself so much - has anyone upset him? Let him put his head down and play as part of the team and he will continue to do great things. If he focuses too much on showing himself off - it will create issues for the team. Overall - Ricardo - you are the best coach in Africa….hands down!
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Got up this morning (US - PST) and watched Meriekh vs Olympique khrebka of Morroco, in their return game in Omdurman. In a dissapointing game our homeside advanced on a goalless draw.
I really hope Kroger, Mazda and the administration can solve the current attacking weakness in the team. Captain Faisal Al-3ajab is way past his prime and is visibly heavy. Although his skill, inventivness and a keen nose for the net are valuable assets - they are not sufficient for a team with an eye on the trophy. A similar issue exists with Tambal, whose confidence and skill level are almost completely
erratic. In a game like this qualifier today - both were out of form, which makes the team impotent and imbalanced. There is NO WAY this team will reach the final this year without the 2 veterans finding swift replacement - Goodwin anyone?
Good luck to our beloved Meriekh in the next round.
Hillal off to a good but difficult startHillal (of Sudan) won their first quarter-final Group duel of the African Champions League
2008 (Friday July 18th), against a formidable Enyimba United of Nigeria . After lagging 0-1 and being held at 2-2, earlier in the game, Hillal's recent Nigerian addition - Ifeanyi Onigbo (AKA "Iviani") headed the winning goal for Hillal in the dying minutes of the game. This thrilling finale set ablaze the stands at Hillal's home ground. 30 thousands fans packed the "blue bastion" homestead in Omdurman, where Hillal have had an unbeaten record streak of 108 home-games!
What would an African bout be without refereeing disputes?
In my view the refereeing was fair and balanced, although the Nigerian press feels that the penalty awarded byEgyptioan referee Aouda was a stretch (hear Enyimba's Agwu explain to BBC Sport in this broadcast). Hillal's young new striker Ahmed Adil was tackled down inside the 6 yard box and about to score.
Good high-pressure thriller overall
Both jteams put on a good show. Enyimba's first goal and Hillal's second were masterful. It was also evident that two seasoned and vicious coaches were taking each other on - maxing out on substitutions to respond to the evolution of the game and each other's strategies. Enyimba finished the game with 10 players after Stephhen Worgu took down a Hillal player, on his way to goal in the 62nd minute, to receive his booking (red card).
Here comes "Iviani"
If there were something to write home about in this game, it was Iviani's stellar performance. He was brought in to replace Hamoda Basheer before the kickoff of the second half. Iviani effervesced in midfield and took brave shots at goal - stirring things up a little and lifting morale. Minutes before heading in the winning goal, Enyimba's goalkeeper caught an equally sudden header by the #30. From fancy footwork and dribbling antics to his shirt-off celebration of the winning goal, Iviani was the most exciting player in this game! Welcome home Iviani!