Lobi Stars and Enugu Rangers kicked off their continental campaigns, in the Caf Champions League and Confederation Cup, respectively without much fuss during the last round.
The Pride of Benue saw off UMS de Loum of Cameroon 2-1 on aggregate, while the Flying Antelopes dispatched Ethiopian side Defence Force 5-1 to progress.
The big challenges come up this weekend, as Lobi takes on Kenyan giants Gor Mahia in the Champions League final qualification round, while Rangers are up against USM Bel Abbes in the Confederation Cup second qualification round.
K’Ogalo have wealth of experience on the continental scene, and that’s not hard to understand as they are Kenya’s most successful team with 17 Premier League titles. However, their consistent representation has not led to any title triumph in the African elite competition, they’ll be looking to avoid last season’s disappointment, where they narrowly lost out to eventual champions Esperance in this round and dropped into the Confederation Cup.
Lobi Stars’ only appearance in the Champions League came in 2000 on the back of winning the league in 1999. They did manage to reach the group phase – the last hurdle before the final – but could only finish third in Group B behind Hearts of Oak and Al-Ahly.
Even though Gor Mahia is a more decorated club than the Makurdi outfit, Coach Solomon Ogbeide sees his side as a match for the Kenyans.
“Of course we know that Gor Mahia are a very big club from Kenya but the business…is the match on the field of play and Lobi Stars are also a big team,” he told the official Caf website.
The veteran coach believes his men are ready to challenge having recruited some big names in the Nigeria Professional Football League during the offseason. Kelly Kester, Samuel Mathias, Nojeem Olukokun and Sikiru Alimi have all arrived, but, as he said, the pitch is where the business is, and Lobi must prove they have what it takes to dispatch Gor.
Bel Abbes are not one of the big Algerian teams, having spent a chunk of their history in the lower tier where they won the Ligue 2 title five times.
They were able to qualify for the Confederation Cup after winning the Algerian Cup, even as they finished 10th in Ligue 1.
This will be their first ever appearance in the Confederation Cup, and having seen off LISCR FC of Liberia in the preliminary round, they’ll be looking continue making strides in their maiden season in Africa.
Rangers do have better history than their Algerians counterparts; they’ve appeared four times under the current competition name, and were close to making it to the 2004 final only to lose out to Ghana’s Asante Kotoko in the group phase.
Since then, they’ve failed to reach that round as the tournament has gone through a few tweaks, and they suffered a heavy 5-2 aggregate loss to ZESCO United in last year’s final qualification round.
Eguma Not Disappointed Over Rivers United, Heartland Draw
The technical manager of Rivers United football of Port Harcourt, Stanley Eguma said he was not disappointed as he dropped points at home in the match day two of the Nigeria Professional Football League(NPFL).
He stated that his team prepared adequately knowing that Heartland FC of Owerri is coming to fight for the three points.
Eguma said this in a post match interview with Sports journalists after they played one all draw against Heartland FC at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium, on Sunday in Port Harcourt.
According to the number one coach in the State, the problem of his team was the inability to score goals, adding that the problem is not peculiar to his team, but it seems to be a general problem for all the teams in NPFL.
“ We prepared very well because we knew Heartland FC came to fight with their last blood”, Eguma said.
He explained that they were demoralised when they opponents scored early goal.
“No match is easy in the NPFL because every team needs the three points,” he explained.
As it stands pride of the State has two points after playing two matches.
He further commended Heartland FC for running away with a point in Port Harcourt, adding that he is going back to the drawing board to correct the grey areas.
By: Kiadum Edookor.
Obuh Sure To Win At Home
Head coach of Akwa United, John Obuh, has said his team will take maximum points at home when they square up against Abia Warriors in one of the rescheduled NPFL fixtures.
The Promise Keepers started the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season with a 1-1 draw against Warriors Wolves in matchday 1 while, Abia Warriors were 2-0 winners against Katsina United.
Coach Obuh, who will be taking charge of Abia Warriors for the first time in front of their fans, has set his sight on getting the three points in their first game at home.
“We hope to have the best possible start, especially as we will be playing at home. Our fans and supporters deserve good result. Victory on Thursday will set us on the right track to achieving our target”.
“This is a new NPFL season and we cannot afford to depend on past records and statistics. We have a match to play, we have prepared very well for it, and I can assure our fans that we will not underrate our opponents and we will not leave any stone unturned.
“My players are ready to play, they are fully aware of how the three points will help our course this season, we believe that we will get it right on Thursday. All we need is the support of our fans,” Coach Obuh revealed.
The last encounter between the two sides ended in a 2-2 draw last season.
While the two teams have met eleven times in the NPFL in which the Promise Keepers recorded two victories, six draws and three defeats.
The match is slated for Thursday at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium.
Draw Excites FCIU Coach
Following his side’s 1-1 draw against MFM over the weekend in match day 2 of the Nigeria Professional Football League, head coach of FCIU, Uche Okagbue, has revealed that hard work on the part of the players was solely responsible for the team’s display.
Speaking with brila.net, Okagbue also revealed that the main goal for the team is to ensure they keep doing their best as they aim to win the league or at least grab a continental ticket.
“We are in the league for a surprise and we follow matches the way it comes”.
“We are also working towards getting a continental spot “
“The secret so far is hard work, we promise the fans of FCIU that we are going to do our best this season in the league”.
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