Dolphins, Sunshine face tricky ties in CAF Champions League
By ONYEWUCHI NWACHUKWU
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Two Nigerian club sides, Dolphins FC of Port Harcourt and Sunshine Stars of Akure, have started another journey to see if any of them could win the prestigious CAF Champions League as they face different opponents in the first leg, second round of Africa’s elite club competition.
Since Enyimba International of Aba won the title back-to-back in 2003 and 2004, no other Nigerian side has been able to win the title, with Heartland going all the way to the final in 2009 but losing to Congolese side, TP Mazembe.
This year, Nigeria’s aspiration for the title rests on Dolphins and Sunshine Stars, who incidentally have enough continental experiences that should take them far in the competition going by the fact that they had participated in African club competitions in the past. Dolphins had played up to the final of Confederations Cup, where it lost to Royal Armed Forces of Morocco few years ago, while Sunshine stunned critics by getting to the group stages of the same Confederations Cup on its debut at the club competition.
Dolphins will face an experienced Cameroonian side, Coton Sport Garoua at the Liberation Stadium today with the aim of securing a comfortable win to enhance its chances of advancing to the third round of the competition when the second leg is played in two weeks time in the Central African country.
But if Dolphins boasts of rich pedigree on the continent, Coton Sport boasts of something richer having played up to the final only to lose to TP Mazembe. However, the Nigerian champion has an advantage going by the records as the Cameroonian side has lost in its last two visits to Nigeria.
Last year, Enyimba defeated Coton Sport home and away at the group stages of the Champions League, while it also lost to Heartland in 2009. From indications, the Cameroonian side is likely to bite the dust in Port Harcourt this time around considering the way Dolphins dispatched its first round opponent, Sony Ela Nguema of Equatorial Guinea in the competition.
Ahead of today’s encounter, Dolphins’ combative midfielder, Victor Babayaro, revealed that the Port Harcourt side is focused on winning today’s game, adding that they have resolved to put everything into the game in order to win convincingly so that whatever antics the Cameroonian would come up with during the second leg would not stop Dolphins from forging ahead in the competition.
“We’ll give our all against Coton Sport to ensure that we make the second leg in Cameroon a mere formality match. We’re conscious of the rivalry between Nigeria and Cameroon and so, have resolved not to let the country down.”
The other Nigerian side in the competition, Sunshine Stars of Akure, is already in faraway Angola, ready to battle Recreativo de Libolo in the first leg, second round of the competition. Sunshine was drawn bye and so, did not play in the first round due to its impressive record in the CAF Confederation Cup last year.
Today, in Angola, the Nigerian side will try and avoid slumping to defeat so as to be in a pole position to finish the job in the second leg and book a ticket to play in the third round.
Meanwhile, Super Eagles and Sunshine Stars’ defender, Osasco Precious, is confident that the Akure side will go for an outright win in Angola today. Osasco revealed from the team’s hotel in Angola that they aim at winning their first game on the continent this term.
“We have finally settled down in Angola, getting ready for the game which we hope to win,” he said.
He assured Nigerians that Sunshine Stars would not let them down in Angola today.
“I can assure our fans back home that the team is battle ready for the game. We have set our target to kick-start our campaign on the continent this term with victory.
“We have quality and matured players in the squad and Coach Gbenga Ogunbote and his crew are working hard to ensure that we start our campaign on the continent on a very bright note,” Osasco revealed.
The match is set to kick-start at 3pm local time.