Lowly Rated Nimba Taught Champions League Lesson
By Wleh Bedell
If it was a boxing match, it would have being called off by the Malian referee by the time they reached the break as it would have being a Technical Knock-Out.
Liberia's 2015 zonal league champions Nimba United were taught a hard lesson by 1979 African Champions, Union Sportive de Douala in the first leg, first round tie of the African champions league on February 14, at a poorly attended match at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium (ATS) as they were whalloped 3-1. Right before the eyes of the country's chief patron of Sports, president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a disjointed and tactically bemused Nimba United were steam rolled in the first half by the Cameroonian league runners-up Union Douala.
Three goals, all in the first half, a booming header from the burly central midfielder Gerome Hentchou in the 22nd minute was sandwiched by a brace from the electrifying winger Samuel Nlend in the 6th and 34th minute to spoil the Valentine for the Nimba boys who were all dressed in their red outfit will the inspriction "Cellcom"
In their green shirt and white shorts, Union went to sleep in the first five minutes as Nimba United went on the front foot to the delight of the little crowd at the ATS and even profited from a corner. In their 4-3-3 formation, Nimba were punished mostly as a result of erratic goalkeeping from former FC Fassell shotstopper Jeremiah Sackey who let in two goals, one from the corner and another from open play as the other goal from the corner could not be put squarely on him. Last season Most Valuable Player Titus Cooper who partnered with the Togolese Adetus Eyonnye and the Sierra Leonean Amadu Barrie was very poor as the attack lacked fire power and invention to threaten the bigger Cameroonians who on the day were superior as Union who also employed a 4-3-3 formation were rampant. Their organized back four of Fabril Koon,Andoula Serge,Oliver Mbassadiarra and Mohammed Djetie provided protection for their towering goaltender Moise Dassie Douatry who only dealt with routine corners.
Nimba United midfield trio of Darlington Sumo, Sierra Leonean Foday Suma and Wilton Ninneh could not just click against the Union midfield trio of Gerome Hentchou,Joseph Aanny Nken and Selge Soko who on the day were ominous.
The hosts back four despite conceding three goals in the first stanza, two of which were from dead balls,should be thanked for being a bit more resilient as Joseph Dennis, another Sierra Leonea Lamin Janneh, Darlington Pailey and Anthony Buogbor were in the thick of things against the visitors front three of Eliezer Kano, Frantz Pangop and Samuel Nlend.
With two goals being conceded after 28 minutes and the third six minutes later, it was game over from a technical perspective. But, Nimba showed some promise when the dreadful goalkeeper Sackey and the Sierra Leonean passenger Barrie were substituted in the first half for a very reliable pair of hands in Emmanuel Deanneh and Franklin Mulbah. The substitute goalkeeper was a major reason Nimba did not lose by five to six goals as he made several key saves and when the consolation goal was scored 17 minutes to the end by Eyononye, it was little too late as Union already have one foot in the second round where they will meet Egyptian giants Zamalek.
As for the second leg two weeks time in Cameroun, Nimba will only be going on a tourist mission as they stand no chance against their experienced counterparts.
After just ten games whole season in a hurriedly arranged zonal league where Nimba emerged as champions as in-form LISCR who were making in-roads had they and Nimba that topped both groups saw their points being dropped for a two-legged play-offs between both sides with Nimba United winning in post match penalties after both legs ended goaless. The heavy loss to Union just shows how the local league is miles behind most part of Africa as the defeat by Nimba was the worst defeat sustained by a Liberian side on home soil in 29 years when a Peter Dawo led Gor Mahia of Kenya hammered the Oilers of LPRC 3-1 at a flooded SKD after a 0-0 away first leg way back in 1987.
Another Liberian club, NPA Anchors that won the 1994/'95 league due to a zonal arrangement as well were demolished 8-0 away to Ghana's Obuasi Goldfields after the first leg ended 0-0 at the ATS.
Next up for Union Doual is an academic or friendly match against LISCR on tomorrow, Monday February 15, 2016 at 4:00 P.M. at the ATS. It can be recounted Union Douala defeated LISCR 2-1 in the African champions league first leg in Cameroun and won the second leg at the ATS 1-0 in 2013, and while it is a friendly, LISCR will be aiming to prove something, a match the Nimba United contingent will be watching keenly, but to what extent will it do good for them in the second leg is the huge question.