Nigerian champions Plateau United on Wednesday qualified for the first round of the 2018 CAF Champions League after an emphatic 4-0 aggregate victory over Cameroonian champions Eding Sport. Midfielder Raphael Ayagwa scored the team’s only goal early in the second half in Yaounde to make sure of progress for his side who will now face 2007 winners Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia for a place in the group stage of the competition.
The sound of Etoile du Sahel sends shivers to the spine of Nigerian football fans as the Tunisians are always a tough customer to Nigerian sides. Ayagwa believes it is not an impossible task for his side.
“My slogan says the impossible is nothing with God. We are not scared of them (Etoile). We respect them but we don’t fear them and I believe ninety minutes (180 in this case) will judge,” a confident Ayagwa told www.aclsports.com
Etoile battled then defending champions Enyimba to a stand still in the 2004 final before the Nigerians won on penalty shootout in Abuja while penalties also separated both sides when they met at this stage in 2016 after Etoile overturned a 3-0 first leg deficit to win the second leg 3-0.
Etoile are known to fancy Nigeria-born players in their squad over the years. From the likes of Ogochukwu Obiakor, Onyekachi Nwoha, Emeka Opara and Austin Ejide in 2003/04 to Muri Ogunbiyi in 2007, Nigerian players have always excelled in Sousse.
In the moment, former Kano Pillars star Godspower Aniefiok is a current member of the side and a good friend to Ayagwa.
“I chatted with my friend at Etoile (Godspower) after our game with Eding in Cameroon. He was like we should ask Enyimba what happened the last time they visited.
“I smiled and told him we are not Enyimba, we are United.”
On a personal note, the 2017/18 season has been a great one for Raphael despite the season still in its infancy. Ayagwa played for United’s North Central rivals, Lobi Stars last season and failed to hit the back of the net. This season however, he has scored three goals already in ten games including the winners at Nasarawa United and now Eding Sport. He attributes his new found scoring form to extra hard work and extra prayers on his part.
“I have upped my game because I have a whole lot to prove. To my new club officials, to Plateau people as a whole and my former team Lobi Stars. So I doubled my hardwork and my prayer life,” Ayagwa stated.
United are off league duties this weekend and will face Rangers in a rescheduled league game next Wednesday before traveling to Tunisia for the first leg of their first round meeting with Etoile du Sahel.