Ulinzi rally for CAF Cup miracle as Smouha hit town

Ulinzi Stars FC coach Benjamin Nyangweso talk to players during morning training session at Safaricom ...
Ulinzi Stars FC coach Benjamin Nyangweso talk to players during morning training session at Safaricom stadium Kasarani on February 17, 2017. Ulinzi are preparing ahead of their return leg match of the preliminary CAF Confederation Cup against Libyan side Al Hilal in Nairobi on February 18, 2017. Photo/Stafford Ondego/www.sportpicha.com

Belief will guide Ulinzi Stars’ implausible bid to overturn their 4-0 defeat to Smouha SC in the CAF Confederation Cup as they seek to emulate Spanish giants, FC Barcelona’s historic UEFA Champions League feat.

Overwhlemed on away soil like their Spanish La Liga counterparts, Ulinzi welcome Smouha at the Machakos Stadium for the return leg knowing nothing short of the ‘Catalunya miracle’ will suffice in order to rescue their first round qualification.

Drawing inspiration from the absorbing atmosphere at the Nou Camp just less than a week ago when Barca shattered French Champions PSG, Ulinzi Head Coach Benjamin Nyangweso believes the tie is still well within reach.

“If you saw what happened at the Camp Nou last Wednesday night one must have learnt that nothing is impossible in football. It shocked the world and up to know many still can’t believe what Barcelona did, can we emulate that? Yes we can as long as we believe,” Nyangweso told Citizen Digital.

Trailing by a similar margin from the first leg of their last 16 tie to PSG, Barca went through to the quarters 6-5 on aggregate following a stirring, scarcely believable 6-1 win that is still reverberating worldwide to date.

Ulinzi’s Egyptian opponents have already landed in the country ahead of their Friday second leg fixture and are scheduled to hold their first training session at Nairobi’s Utalii Grounds later on Wednesday evening.

“We must attack and defend well at the same time, in the first leg they kept us under pressure from the start to the end. They are tactically gifted and very dangerous on the counter attack so we must be equal to that.

“What we’re aiming to achieve won’t be easy and will call for every player to give 150 percent in order for us to stand a chance,” Nyangweso stated.

Their dismal performance away in the first leg played in Egypt is telling of the magnitude that awaits the Military Men and just how much they ought to raise their game and rise to the occasion.

Missing their top scorer John Mark Makwatta who is Slovakia bound, the four-time Kenyan champions simply did not have the artillery to counter their opponents at the second largest Egyptian city having just one shot on target.

“Makwatta was missed a lot because those who replaced him didn’t live up to expectation but we are working on a formula to make sure they click in the second leg and am sure we will see some fireworks up front,” Nyangweso underscored.

Ulinzi carries Kenya’s only hope for representation in the second round of African club football after their compatriots, Tusker FC, were knocked out of the CAF Champions League preliminary round.

The last time a Kenyan side stirred hope was in 2011 when Sofapaka, who are battling to retain their Kenyan Premier League status, sailed to the third round of the Confederation Cup.

“If there are two videos that we must constantly analyze is the one from  the first leg to rectify our mistakes and work on how to come back stronger in the second leg and the other one is the Barcelona miracle for motivation,” he emphasized.

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Story By John Kyanda
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