Nigeria’s representative in the 2018/19 CAF Champions League Lobi Stars on Friday night opened their group stage campaign with an impressive display, downing South African side Mamelodi Sundowns 2-1 at the Nnamdi Azikwe Stadium in Enugu.
Lobi, based in Makurdi have been made to play their home games in Enugu, four hours away from their base but have notched up consecutive wins in the elimination rounds before reaching the group stage, the first Nigerian side in three years to get there.
Their opponents indeed started the better of the two sides and were almost ahead inside the opening ten minutes but Lobi goalkeeper Olufemi Kayode pulled off a magnificent save to deny Ricardo Nascimiento’s header from a corner kick. The rebound landed on top of the cross bar and to safety.
There was no denying “The Brazillians” however in the 38th minute. Lobi defender John Lazarus missed a chance to clear, allowing Gaston Sirino to latch onto the ball. The attacker then squared for Liberian Anthony Laffour – who replays suggest was in an offside position – to tap into an empty net.
Sundowns’ lead lasted for just seven minutes though as Sunday Adetunji, who was making his Lobi Stars debut was tripped inside the box with Egyptian referee Ghead Grisha promptly pointing to the spot. Ivorian star Yaya Kone duly converted from 12 yards, sending Kennedy Mweene the wrong direction.
Lobi upped the ante in the second half and became more purposeful in their attacking play. Their improvement paid off in the 52nd minute when Sundowns’ poor clearance of a tame pass by Ebube Duru fell to Samuel Martins Mathias who hit a first time effort into the right bottom corner, his second goal of the campaign.
Solomon Ogbeide coached Lobi Stars remained in the ascendancy throughout the game and Mweene denied Adetunji a debut goal later on. Mathias’s goal proved the winner and gave Lobi Stars a crucial three points at the start of the group stage.
Lobi Stars XI: Olufemi Kayode; John Lazarus (Solomon Kwambe 81′), Bashiru Monsuru, Ekene Olisema, Ebube Duru; Alex Aghahowa Otakho (Kelly Kester 70′), Dare Ojo, Samuel Mathias, Yaya Kone; Austine Ogunye, Sunday Adetunji.