Usman Abdallah optimistic of Enyimba progression vs. Raja Casablanca
Enyimba coach Usman Abdallah is optimistic that his side can reach the CAF Confederation Cup final despite being defeated 1-0 at home by Raja Casablanca in Wednesday's semi-final first leg.
The People's Elephant put on a lethargic display against the dominant Moroccan giants in front of their own fans in Aba, even with the visitors leaving prolific forwards Mahmoud Benhalib and Mouhcine Iajour on the bench.
Abdelilah's 48th-minute winner has given Raja the away goal and the advantage ahead of the decisive second leg at the Stade Mohammed V, but Abdallah believes that the NPFL heavyweights can still turn things around.
"We have been in this position before during the group stage," he told KweséESPN. "We were out of the group and had a disadvantage also, but we bounced back with an away win [against Djoliba].
"We then sealed qualification at home with a victory [against CARA Brazzaville] and unexpectedly emerged as group winners," Abdallah continued.
"It can still happen for us in Casablanca, but it's a big challenge for us and the players need to be motivated at this stage."
The latest setback ended a four-game unbeaten run for Enyimba in the competition, their last defeat coming away to Williamsville on group-stage matchday four.
Abdallah acknowledged that his players were still struggling to come to terms with a first home loss against a well-organised opponent, but the coach has backed his troops to double their efforts as they aim to upset the odds to progress.
"The loss hit my players because nobody was expecting a home defeat at this stage," he continued. "It's football, and credit should go to the Raja side; they are a very good team with exceptional technical and tactical ability.
"We have to sit down, work, and hope to come out with a good result in Casablanca," Abdallah concluded. "I'm still hopeful of a positive outcome in the return leg."
The two sides will contest the second leg on October 24, with the winners set to face either Egypt's Al Masry or Congolese giants AS Vita Club in the final of CAF's second-tier club competition.