Enyimba football Club of Aba Nigeria have beaten Cameroon’s Cotonsport Garoua 3-2 in a CAF African Champions league game played in Garoua on Saturday.

The Nigerians were the first to hit the net through their striker,Uche Kalu, barely 9 minutes into play. Johnson Chidoze scored at the 40th minute for Enyimba to take  a 2-0 lead to half-time.

Cotonsport scored two minutes after recess. They equalised 20 minutes into the second half through substitute Seidou Idrissa who had spent only a minute on the pitch when he beat the Enyimba goalkeeper.

Enyimba were rattled for a few minutes after Cotonsport’s equliser but quickly re-grouped and recovered control of the game.

Kalu Uche scored the winner five minutes before full-time after dismal marking from the Cameroon team had left him alone face-to-face with goalkeeper Daouda Kassali.

Tactics

The game was tactically and technically uninspiring in its early stages. Both teams had flooded the midfield but few players could actually retain the ball and initiate interesting passing and movement. It was therefore no surprise that Enyimba’s curtain-raiser came through a free-kick.

After scoring Enyimba placed emphasis on pressure; maintaining a high defensive line which kept Cotonsport deep inside their own half. When the Garoua team managed to string a few passes, the player with the ball was harassed and forced to shoot from far.

Cotonsport’s coach had taken the decision to play Ousmaila Baba, a natural winger, in the right-back position of his back four. Baba’s natural attacking instinct meant he often shot forward like a wing-back which had a negative impact on the team’s overall balance.

With Baba sprinting forward,  one of the central defenders had to shift to fill his position and the ripple effect meant the leftback Sebastien Ndzana Kana always had to tuck into central defence creating an open space on the flank. The basically re-shaped as a (confused) 3-4-3 when Baba was attacking.

Enyimba’s right back benefited from this disorganisation and made a cross into the 18 yard for their second goal. The third goal also resulted from Baba’s forays forward. He had shot up front for an attack and lost possession. This left his flank wide open as the many tired legs in the Cotonsport side were unable to fill Baba’s space.

The Nigerian left-back had acres of space and time to hit a low cross into the six yard area where Kalu Uche was unmarked.

Poor Midfield

Cotonsport’s midfield was out of the game. Ndame Ndame who has been called up a few times for the Indomitable Lions, did little to convince anyone doubting how he could be preferred over  Shalke’s Joel Matip. He dribbled when he had to pass and mis-timed tackles every other time.

Joel Babanda and Michel Balokok would also have to improve if Cotonsport expects to perform as well as they did in the 2008 season of the Champions league when they reached the final.

Enyimba could have won with a bigger scoreline had their strikers not been wasteful, especially in the last minutes of the game when Cotonsport threw caution to the wind and attempted to get an equaliser by every means possible.

On the positive side, the Cameroon champions showed they had character by coming from two goals down to draw level. Maybe the return of their two players representing Cameroon at the U-20 World Cup in Columbia might be helpful when they clash with Al Hilal of Sudan.

Before then, their fans should hope that coach Lavagne re-works his tactics and ensures they have the physical capacity to play 90 minutes at a high level (not Cameroon league standard). They looked beaten and tired by the end of the game. (Playing at 3pm in hot, hot Garoua isn’t helpful either)!

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