AITEO CUP: ENYIMBA TEST CONFIDENCE AGAINST KANO PILLARS

AITEO CUP: ENYIMBA TEST CONFIDENCE AGAINST KANO PILLARS

BY APESIN ADEMOLA.

Fatigue contributed largely to Niemba’s costly defeat to Morocco’s Raja Casablanca in the first leg of this year’s CAF Confederation Cup last Wednesday in Aba. Prior to that crucial encounter, the People’s Elephant had played four matches in six days – one in the continental competition and three in three days in the Aiteo Cup in Gombe, several hundred of kilometres away.

Between that loss to Raja in the first leg semi-final of the CAF Confederation Cup and now, Enyimba have rested for four days. But travelling all the way to Gombe again after such a tasking fixture may cost the Aba-based team yet again.

Enyimba met Pillars only once in the recently concluded Nigerian Professional Football League. And that was in Calabar, where Enyimba then made home while the Enyimba International Stadium in Aba was under re-construction. The game ended 1-1. A return match in Kano could not hold as the season ended abruptly following the crisis that rocked Nigeria’s football administration.

Enyimba will miss the service of goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai, who got injured in the match with Raja. He was forced out of that encounter in the 75th minute and replaced by Super Eagles’ substitute keeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa. Ezenwa should be in charge this evening in Gombe as Enyimba seek to move nearer their fifth title in the competition.

In this competition at the national stage, Enyimba have scored 12 goals and conceded just once in five matches.

Kano Pillars, who are yet to win the trophy since their first time 65 years ago, were runners-up to Kwara United in the Lagos centre at the group stage. There, they won two matches, including the last one against Kwara United.

Pillars have scored 17 goals in five matches at the national phase of the competition and let in seven goals.

The winners of this encounter will tackle Katsina United in the semifinal to be played at Agege Township Stadium, Lagos on Wednesday. That same day, Enugu Rangers will tackle Nasarawa United at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano.

The final holds on Sunday, October 14 at Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, just the day before CAF deadline to register Aiteo Cup winners for the 2018/19 Confederation Cup.

Lobi Stars have already booked their seat in the next CAF Champions League as champions of the abridged 2017/18 NPFL season.

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