Fatai Osho believes Enyimba put up “an improved performance” in the 1-0 loss at Al Ahli Benghazi on Thursday that left them at risk of not making the Confederation Cup last-16.
Muttasem El Taib scored the only goal five minutes before half-time to consign Enyimba who also lost Timothy Danladi to a 74th-minute red card to a defeat that drops them to third in Group A, one point behind Al Ahli who replaced them in second place.
Enyimba would have sealed a quarterfinals spot with a victory and a draw would have seen them still in charge of their destiny, but defeat sets up an intriguing finale to Group A.
Enyimba must now beat leaders and already qualified Orlando Pirates in Aba in the final round of games on 28 April and hope that Alhi fails to win at bottom side ES Setif. Setif themselves are just a point behind Enyimba and can make the knockouts if they beat Al Ahli and the Nigerians fail to beat Pirates.
Enyimba’s preparations for the game were marred by uncertainty over their travel plans due to a lack of funds and the Aba Elephants only arrived in Algeria on Wednesday, a day before the game.
And perhaps that accounted for their disjointed display in Thursday’s dull and drab affair, not that Osho agrees, asserting his satisfaction with his side’s showing despite the defeat but bemoaning the “shocking” goal his players conceded and the red card which he claimed knocked the wind out of their sails.
“Quite an improved performance on our part,” Osho said after the game. “We know we had to get a good result here to stand a good chance of going to the quarter-final. We had our work cut out, and the players are quite aware of this.
“They really worked so hard. That goal came, quite a shocking one at that. After that, we tried to see what we could do to rescue the situation. The red card again changed the narrative to an extent. Even at that, we tried to push, and see if we could get something out of it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t.”
On his team’s chances of making it to the next round, the former Remo Stars coach said he always expected the battle for qualification to be hard-fought till the last day but said the two-time African champions must do their bit against Pirates and hope for the best from other centres.
“Everybody still has a good chance of qualifying. Look at that group, all the four teams can still qualify. That’s why we have to go till the last day,” he said.
“I said it much earlier that this group would go till the last day because every team there is competing very well. What we need to do for now is to ensure that we get maximum points against Orlando Pirates and see what happens at other venues.”