Battle for the Continent: How MFM Escaped Enyimba’s Siege

first_imgShooting Stars beating Akwa thrust Enyimba into third position, needing a win of any sort against Katsina United on the last day to book a CAF Confederation Cup ticket irrespective of what happens in Uyo. That his boys got a result Akwa failed to get in Ibadan should make Anyansi-Agwu one of the happiest men around the arena but his mood was shockingly different.He was among the last to leave as he was glued to his seat long after the final whistle. Hands on his jaw, he gazed into space and couldn’t mutter a word. Obviously, bemoaning a lost opportunity. When he managed to rise up, he took the ‘long’ walk speaking to no one. He was battling hard to subdue his emotions. Men also cry, you know.His expectations may have been heightened by the fact that his boys led till four minutes of regulation time left. At that point, the prospect of leaving Enugu with maximum points was more appealing. If Chibuzor Madu didn’t convert the late penalty that shared the spoils, Enyimba was primed to secure a Champions League ticket if they beat Katsina and MFM fails to win in Maiduguri on the last day.This was Anyansi-Agwu’s ideal scenario. While a return to the continent, whatever competition, is paramount, Enyimba always craves to play in the more illustrious Champions League. Why not? The People’s Elephants are two-time African champions and are always comfortable mixing it with the continent’s best.The hunger in Enyimba was highlighted in the way they approached the Wikki game on match day 36, well aware that only a high scoreline will boost their ambitions. The 4-0 scoreline would have served as a fillip to their quest for the bigger pie.Enyimba’s emphatic defeat of Wikki made Akwa rue missed chances in the 2-1 victory over Lobi two days earlier. Suddenly, the teams were tied on both points and goals difference. Hitherto, Akwa had a superior goals difference, an advantage that would have come to the fore if both teams ended up with the same points.Match day 37 results changed all these. If both teams lost, it would have come down to who conceded or scored more goals. The emphasis on the last match day would have been on the number of goals scored if they record routine wins at home. But Enyimba’s draw in Enugu places them in third position on 58 points, one ahead of Akwa.The tie on points and goals difference has been broken. Enyimba is now in the driving seat in the battle for the Confederation Cup ticket. Akwa must beat Kano Pillars in Uyo while hoping Enyimba doesn’t win against Katsina. But, while Akwa needs favours from Katsina, Enyimba needs no such favours from anyone. All they need to do is beat Katsina and the ticket is in the bag irrespective of what happens in Uyo. This highlights the importance of that solitary point in Enugu.So while Anyansi-Agwu might play Oliver Twist, he should also take into cognizance the other possible scenarios. What if Enyimba lost and Akwa won in Ibadan? What if Akwa had also drawn in Ibadan? What if the Promise Keepers had even won? Enyimba would have been on the back foot. Now, the ticket is theirs lose.Not a few believe Akwa has played the best football all season. They are even good enough to pick a Champions League ticket but Enyimba’s experience in season run-ins shone through. It is not yet Uhuru but the knack to get decisive results at crucial moments has made the task easier for the seven-time Nigerian champions. And it is Akwa’s failure to get such key results that has been their bane.But, while these teams’ aspirations have been limited to the Confederation Cup ticket, MFM should be grateful to Madu for not missing the late minute spot kick against Enyimba. MFM coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu has been talking tough, fancying his team’s chances of beating Elkanemi in Maiduguri while wishing Plateau bottle it against Rangers paving the way for the Olukoya boys to win the title. Ilechukwu can now concentrate on overhauling Plateau at the top since he has no cause to look over his shoulders.One man’s meat, another’s poison. Anyansi-Agwu’s loss, Ilechukwu’s gain.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram Clement Nwankpa JrEnyimba’s Chairman, Felix Anyansi-Agwu’s countenance after Rangers forced his boys to a 1-1 draw in Enugu spoke volumes. You would expect him to be happy after news emerged that Akwa United had lost in Ibadan but he, obviously had other ideas.last_img read more

‘D’ starts off slow for 3rd straight week

first_imgJEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoFor the third time in as many games, the Wisconsin defense struggled in the first half, allowing an inferior team to keep the score close at halftime. The problem lies in facing teams showing offensive wrinkles that the Badgers had not prepared for and making the necessary adjustments. “We’ve played against teams basically blindly, and they are coming out with new offenses,” middle linebacker Elijah Hodge said. “We just have to play our defense.”Those issues, according to Hodge, improve not only as the game progresses but also throughout the season.”Once we realize what they’re doing, we settle down,” Hodge added. “The further you get into the season, you have a little bit of [a feel] for what the offense is going to do. There’s not that many surprises because you have more film on the teams.”In its first three games, UW has struggled to separate itself from opponents in the first half. Washington State (14), UNLV (7) and The Citadel (21) all scored the majority of their team’s points in the first half. The scores aren’t coming on fluke plays either. All three opponents have been successful moving the ball early on, scoring on lengthy touchdown drives. The six touchdowns the Badgers have allowed in the first half of games this season have come on drives of 81 yards (once), 80 yards (three times) and 72 yards (twice).”It all boils down to reading your keys and doing your job every single play, and you’ll be in the right position, and that’s what we weren’t doing in the first half,” cornerback Allen Langford said. “So that’s what we had a big emphasis on in the second half.”That approach has worked out for the Badgers so far. The defense has allowed only 23 points in the second half this season on two touchdowns and three field goals. Henry to the rescueCornerback Jack Ikegwuonu left the game early in the first quarter with a thigh injury. After walking around and getting looked at by the UW training staff, Ikegwuonu ended up seeing limited action the rest of the way. “Jack took a shot to the upper thigh, and he tried to go back in there, but with those things, typically what we try to do is [try to] heal him right then and there,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “We should have him back, hopefully for practice, Tuesday.”Stepping in for Ikegwuonu was true freshman Aaron Henry. “It’s tough going out there to be a freshman corner and play the way he did,” Langford said. “A few [mistakes] here and there, but it’s corner, and there’ll be stuff here and there.”Support for ShaughnessyMatt Shaughnessy’s four-tackle performance Saturday was not a career high, nor was it even the highest total on the team. But the defensive end’s game against The Citadel impressed his teammates and coaches.Shaughnessy left the team at the conclusion of last week’s game against UNLV to return home to Connecticut to be with his brother, who is seriously ill. He didn’t return to Madison until Wednesday and, consequently, didn’t practice Monday or Tuesday.”Anytime anyone goes through situation like that, the only person that knows what that’s like is him,” Bielema said. “He prepared well, basically only practiced Wednesday and Thursday. His brother is still very ill and going through a very serious phase of his life, both Matt and his brother and his whole family. We continue to support him and back him up and do everything we can to make it as smooth as we can for him.””Not only as a teammate, but I see the team as a second family. If he needs me, I’ll be there for him,” running back P.J. Hill said. “I’m pretty sure I speak for a lot of other guys on the team.”last_img read more