Rivers United takes qualification battle to Sudan
By Paul Erewuba
Rangers International of Enugu would tomorrow at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, confront Zamalek of Egypt in a make-or-break round of 32 CAF Champions League match to determine who romps into the money spinning stage.
The Egyptian outfit beat the Enugu Antelopes 4-1 in the first leg second round tie at the El – Salam Stadium in Cairo.
Former Heartland FC of Owerri striker, Stanley Ohawuchi, scored the first goal of the game in the eighth minute for Zamalek. And things went from bad to worse for Rangers as two quick goals in the 29th and 31st minutes courtesy of Hossam Salama and Ayman Hefni respectively meant the Flying Antelopes had an almost impossible task of overturning the situation.
The Egyptians made it 4-0 before Rangers’ Bobby Clement reduced the deficit seven minutes before full time to give the Nigeria representatives a fighting chance heading into the second leg.
With this massive result, keen CAF Champions League watchers believe Rangers’ chance of reaching the group stage of the competition hangs in the balance. To underscore the huge importance the Egyptians attach to this encounter, the White Knights stormed Nigeria Thursday for the tie in which the overall winners will move to the group stage.
Since arriving the shores of the country, Zamalek coach, Mohamed Helmy has been playing mind games telling whoever cares to listen that his side is not yet sure of their place in the next round of the CAF Champions League. He, however, expressed his satisfaction at Zamalek’s showing in the first leg.
While Zamalek have already started looking beyond Rangers in their dream of winning the Champions League trophy, Rangers attacking pearl Edoh Ocheme, believes his side can upturn the huge deficit. “The task looks daunting but not insurmountable. It is going to be a-make-or mar game and we’re ready.”
Nigeria’s other clubside in the race, Rivers United of Port Harcourt are however doing battle today in Sudan to keep a date with Al-Merrikh.
The match which will take place at the 43,000 capacity Al-Merrikh Stadium, Omdurman will decide which of the two sides will progress.
The Stanley Eguma tutored side is heading into the encounter brimming with confidence, having hammered the Sudanese outfit 3-0 in Port Harcourt last week.
However, El Merrikh goalkeeper believes it is not over for his side, adding that they have the arsenal to shoot down the Nigerians on home soil.
“We know it is going to be a tough game. But we are confident of up turning the table against the Nigerians,” he boosted.
Speaking further, he said their aim is to score two goals in the first half and finish it in the second half.
“We have our game plans and we hope to achieve it in the first half”, he concluded.