Following their dismal performances in the first leg of the preliminary round of matches in the ongoing CAF inter-club competitions, the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup, Nigeria’s trio of Plateau United, Rivers United and Kano Pillars are faced with early exits in their continental campaigns.
On a weekend that saw only Enyimba winning 1-0 away at Rahimo FC, Plateau United, Rivers United and Kano Pillars all suffered defeats that have put them on the brinks.
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While Plateau United suffered a 0-1 loss at home to Simba SC, Rivers United went down 1-2 to Futuro kings of Equatorial Guinea in Mongnomo just as Kano Pillars got crushed 1-3 by Jaraaf FC in Dakar.
The trio are therefore walking a tightrope as they face Futuro Kings, Simba SC and Jaraaf FC this weekend in the return legs of their respective competitions.
As things stand, only Enyimba who remained the last team standing for Nigeria in last year’s campaign stand a good chance of progressing to the first round.
The other three representatives will have to do something extraordinary to scale the hurdles before them. Unfortunately, the odds do not favour any of them. Therefore, only a miracle will take them to the much desired first round.
Trust Sports, therefore, takes a look at the hurdles before each of the clubs and their chances as they prepare to take on ‘continental foes’ who are approaching them with advantages in hand.
In order to ensure their qualification to the next round, the 4-time Nigeria champions must not concede a goal and must end the game with a 2-0 victory at least.
Pillars who are hosting the Senegalese side at the refurbished Ahmadu Bello stadium in Kaduna do not inspire so much confidence because of the poor form they have shown in their recent continental engagements.
The ‘Masu gida’ boys’ continental sojourn in the CAF Champions League in particular in which they have featured six times has not been anything but impressive.
2009 remains the best year for the ‘Sai Masu Gida’ where they ended their sojourn in the semi-finals. In 2011, 2013 and 2015, they were dumped out in the first round while exiting the competition in the preliminary round in 2014 and 2019.
Although faced with a Herculean task, Pillars players through the legendary captain, Rabiu Ali have been talking tough ahead of the match this afternoon.
The Home-based Super Eagles star said Pillars have put the loss behind them and their target which is to ensure they qualify for the first round is the focus of the team.
Rabi’u Ali also said they are confident and ready to score the goals that will put smiles on the faces of their teeming fans and the good people of the state.
“We know our fans are not happy with our result in the first leg where we lost 3-1 against ASC Jaraaf FC. However, we want them to be patient with us. In football you can win, draw or lose but by God’s grace, the second leg will be different,” he said.
However, Jaraaf manager, Malik Daf, has said they will complete the job in Nigeria
“It was necessary to play with the ball, try to eliminate, to create the surplus, to make calls. That’s what we did. And they scored three goals.
“We didn’t even have the chance to score more goals, but I’m not going to blame them too much. We will try to correct all this in order to start the second leg well.
“Qualification will be played in Nigeria and it won’t be easy, but we have the means to do it,” he told CAF media.
The 2017 Nigerian champions and current holders of the NPFL title have a tougher task of upturning their 0-1 home loss when they take on Simba FC in their second leg tie in Dar es Salam.
Plateau United will need at least a two-goal victory without conceding any to overturn the result and qualify for the first round where the winner of the tie over two legs will face either Platinum Stars of South Africa or Costa Du Sol of Angola.
Coach Abdul Maikaba in a tweet blamed his players for losing concentration but remained optimistic his side will turn the result around because Simba aren’t “invincible”.
“Good game against @SimbaSCTanzania they play good football, but they are not invincible. They are just a few inches ahead of us because they’ve played 11 league games before now.
“We have done it before, I believe we can do it again by winning away from home. We only need your support,” he tweeted.
High spending Rivers United will have the chance to redeem their image when they take on Futuro Kings at Adokiye Amiesimaka International stadium in Port Harcourt tomorrow.
‘The Pride of Rivers’ will have to equally win with at least a 2-goal margin and qualify to the next round.
The oil rich club during the transfer season splashed huge sums of money to sign experienced players like goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai and Ifeanyi Anaemena from rivals Enyimba FC.
Coach Eguma during his post-match interview partly blamed the loss to injuries and the wastefulness of the players in front of goal. He, however, remained optimistic that the deficit will be overturned in Port Harcourt.
“The result of the game isn’t a reflection of our work and there are some other issues that affected us. The players tried their best, but an avalanche of goals that we missed later affected the team psychologically.
“Within 15 – 20 minutes, we should have scored at least two goals. In fact, before the end of the first half, we should have been three or four goals up, but the attackers were so wasteful in front of goal and you can’t afford to waste chances in a match of this magnitude.
“Generally, we should have come out with a win, but that’s football. I believe we can beat them here (Port Harcourt), if we get our strategy right. They are beatable,” he said.
Failure of these teams to secure qualification to the next round will not augur well for the image of the domestic league. Nigeria will continue to lose its respect as one of the powerhouses in Africa football.
As such, Plateau United, Rivers United and Kano Pillars are ‘condemned’ to win their games in order to redeem their own images and save the country avoidable disgrace. Already, the NPFL is becoming a laughing stock.