Although Nigeria flagbearers, Rangers found it relatively easy overpowering Ethiopia’s Defence Force in the CAF Confederation Cup, it is envisaged that the challenge from Algeria’s Union Sportive Medinat Bel Abbes (USMBA) will be stiffer when they clash this weekend.
Only last month, Rangers completed a double with a 2-0 home win and 3-1 away win against Defence FC of Ethiopia in the Preliminary Round which came on the back of that stunning win of the Nigeria national cup on penalties when they overcame a 3-0 deficit to tie scores at 3-3 at the expense of KanoPillars to qualify for this year’s CAF Confederation Cup.
“ Our comeback in some recent matches is not a question of strategy rather we always play to our strength,” Rangers’ trainer Gbenga Ogunbote told cafonline.com
“ We sometimes conceded cheap goals but we don’t give up easily especially when we realised that we are better than the opposing team.
“ I feel very great after winning both the home and away match against Defence FC of Lesotho in the last round. After the first leg, there were criticisms here that we didn’t play well.
“ But we went over there (Addis Ababa) for the second leg and got an away win.These victories home and away confirmed our superiority and I want to give thanks to God for that.”
Yet speaking against the background of recent poor performances of many Nigerian clubs on the continent, Ogunbote surmised Rangers must show sterner stuff against USMBA who easily dismissed Lisor FC of Liberia 4-1 on aggregate last month.
“Though many Nigerians teams have not done well against North African teams recently, I believe there’s always a turnaround in life,” noted Ogunbote who lost narrowly to Club Africain of Tunisia at the semi-final stage of the2011 CAF Confederation Cup during his spell in charge of Sunshine Stars of Akure.
“We need to work harder in order to get very far in this competition; we shall do our best and make sure that they (USMBA) do not stop us at this stage.”
Incidentally, Rangers are yet to progress within the trophy range in four previous CAF Confederation Cup attempts and just last year, the Flying Antelopes were halted in their flight by ZESCO United of Zambia in the play-off round.
However, Ogunbote offered on Rangers’ preparedness this term: “We are aware of the efforts put into the team before we secured the qualification to play in this competition but this is yet to be our dream team. All the same, the resilience and never-say-die attitude of the players; and above all, the grace of God have taken us to this stage.
“My last record in this same competition was reaching the semi-finals with Sunshine of Akure. I will be happy if I can go a better further with Rangers and I’m not just thinking but that is my prayers.
“Football is a team sport and I can’t begin to single out a single player. My understanding of the game is that we are a team and team means ‘together everyone achieve much’.
“So, our collective contribution as a team is very important if we want to go far in this competition.”
Meanwhile, Rangers will host USMBA this weekend in this Round of 1/16th first leg at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu while the reverse fixture holds a week later in Algiers and the aggregate winner over the two legs will progress to the Group Stage.