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CAF Confederation Cup

For Rivers United, It’s Mission Impossible

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FROM  SAMMY WEJINYA, Rabat, MOROCCO.

Again, Nigeria are out of the CAF Confederation Cup, a tournament which honour has eluded the country since it began 13 years ago. No thanks to Rivers United’s 2-1 loss to FUS of Morocco on Friday night as the matches in Group A were rounded up.

Antonin Panenka resurfaced in the shape of a Moroccan – Youssef El Gnaoui – to leave pain and gnashing of teeth in his wake as Nigerian side, Rivers United FC bowed out of the 2017 CAF Confederation Cup with a whimper.

United needed to win at a rocking Stade du FUS (Hay Nahda, Rabat) but started on the back foot with the North Africans pushing and probing in search of an early goal.

They almost got it in the fourth minute when El Gnaoui forced a brilliant save off the Rivers United goalkeeper, Abiodun Akande who would go on to have a barn storming game.

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Three minutes later, United were reeling again as Ifeanyi Nweke rallied to produce a goal line clearance before Akande evoked memories of former Colombia international maverick goalkeeper, Rene Higuita by heading away a dangerous free kick.

FUS continued to dominate but profligacy coupled with an Akande in inspired form, kept the former Botola Pro champions at bay.

There is a maxim in football which buttresses a point about paying the price when you fail to convert numerous opportunities and it was ruthlessly displayed when United scored with their first real opening of the game.

Nweke’s opportunistic cross into the FUS box was flapped at by goalkeeper, Aymane Majid and the loose ball fell towards the path of poacher, Bolaji Sakin.

The big striker could not believe his luck as he calmly took aim and curled the ball into the far corner to give the ‘Pride of Rivers’ a fortuitous lead.

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It was a horrible time to concede but to their credit, FUS did not panic; they stayed true to their ideals and philosophy; playing their passing game which soon led to ultimate punishment for the Port Harcourt club in a high octane second half.

Youssef El Gnaoui tapped into an unguarded net from close range in the 52nd minute following good work by El Mehdi El Bassil after Bernard Ovoke unsuccessfully tried to dribble his way from the back.

The Moroccans struck the final nail into the Rivers United coffin with just two minutes remaining on the clock when Mohammed Fouzair converted a penalty – ala Panenka- after Festus Austine needlessly handled the ball in the box.

It was a richly deserved victory for the Moroccans who dominated and were denied on two occasions by goal line clearances from Nweke and Joseph Douhadji.

The Rivers United goalkeeper, Abiodun Akande was his side’s best performer on the day as he produced a series of top class save to help keep the eventual result respectable.

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Technical manager of Rivers United, Stanley Eguma and his counterpart from FUS Rabat, Hoalid Regragui gave their thoughts about the game in a post-match press conference covered by our official website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.

Rivers United finished bottom of Group A with six points from six matches while KCCA finished in third place with nine points after losing 0-4 in Tunis to the eventual table toppers, Club Africain.

United and KCCA thus crash out of the competition at the group stage while the two North Africans march on.

FUS Rabat qualified for the quarter finals after finishing in second place with nine points from six matches.

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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CAF Confederation Cup

Zamalek win African Confederation Cup on away goals

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Zamalek claimed the African Confederation Cup on away goals after a 1-0 win over Renaissance Berkane in the second leg thanks to Ahmed Hamdy’s first-half strike on Sunday.

The final ended 2-2 on aggregate following the return in Cairo with the Egyptian giants taking the trophy after scoring an away goal in last Sunday’s 2-1 first leg defeat in Morocco.

Hamdy swept the ball home after 23 minutes when Berkane failed to clear a corner but there were chances for both clubs to add more goals.

The Moroccan side finished down to 10 men when defender Hamza El Moussaoui was sent off in added time.

Sunday’s victory ensured Zamalek’s second success in the Confederation Cup. They beat Berkane on penalties after drawing the 2019 final 1-1 on aggregate.

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Egypt can complete a double in the African club competitions on Saturday when Zamalek’s arch domestic rivals Al Ahly host Esperance of Tunisia in the Champions League final second leg. The first leg in Tunis on Saturday ended goalless.

-Reuters

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CAF Confederation Cup

Shehu Dikko, Okey Obi get important roles at Confederation Cup final match

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The duo of Shehu Dikko and Okey Sylvanus Sylvanus Obi, both Nigerians have been appointed as Match Commissioner and Security Officer in Sunday’s final match of the CAF Confederation Cup in Cairo.

Dikko, the former chieftain of the governing body of the Nigeria Premier League is already in Cairo for the final match which pitches Zamalek SC against visiting Morocco’s RS Berkane.

Also already is Okey Obi is in Cairo. He is also the chief legal officer at the Nigeria Football Federation.  

The referee of the match is Issa SY. He handled the quarter-final match of Nigeria and  Angola in the Africa Cup of Nations last February. He will be assisted by compatriots, Djibril Camara and Nouha Bangoura. The fourth official is  Omar Abdulkadir Artan of Somalia.

  The Referee Assessor is Victor Miguel de Freitas Gomes of South Africa while  Joshua Robert Knipp, also of South Africa, is the General Coordinator for the match.

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The Video Assistant Referee is Pierre Ghislain Atcho of Gabon. Aliou Goloko of Senegal the initially designated Media Officer who was reportedly unavailable, has been replaced by Egypt’s Mohamed Elsesy.

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CAF Champions League

BREAKING: CAF adopts Yoruba name, “Ola” for official match ball!

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Confederation of African Football, CAF, has adopted a Nigerian language name of its official match ball for the interclubs competitions. Ahead of this weekend’s blockbuster line-up that sees Africa’s top clubs battle for  CAF Confederation Cup and CAF Champions League top honours, the confederation and its matchball producers, PUMA have unveiled a new match ball called “OLA.”

 In a press statement, CAF explains that “OLA,” means “wealth,” “honour,” and “respect” in Yoruba, and “rise” and “success” in Arabic. It explained that the name was chosen to symbolize the dynamic and energetic nature of African football.

Embodying the spirit of Africa, Ola’s design is inspired by the continent’s vibrant colours, art, and traditions.

OLA will be used this weekend – starting in Tunis when Espérance Sportive de Tunis hosts Al Ahly of Egypt in the first leg of the  CAF Champions League Final and on Sunday when Zamalek hosts RS Berkane in the second leg of the  CAF Confederation Cup final at the Cairo International Stadium. 

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