CAF Conf Cup: History beckons as Rayon Sports take on Enyimba

Enyimba FC midfielder Wasiu Alalade controls the ball against Rayon Sports center-back Abdul Rwatubyaye during the two sides’ first-leg match at Kigali Stadium last Sunday. Sam Ngendahimana.



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Midfielder Djabel Manishimwe has urged his teammates to handle their must win tie against Nigeria’s Enyimba this afternoon game as if their lives depend on it if they are to qualify for the CAF Confederation Cup semifinals.

Rayon face the Nigerian heavyweights at Enyimba International Stadium at 3pm (local time), in a bid for a historic first semi-final ticket – for both sides – in the continental competition. Both sides played out a goalless draw in the first-leg clash in Kigali last week.

Brazilian Roberto Oliveira ‘Robertinho’ Goncalves, who is aiming to become the first coach to guide a Rwandan team to the last four of any CAF competition, took a squad of 19 players to Nigeria’s Abia State on Thursday, and have since been training to adapt to the environment.

A scoring draw is enough for the eight-time Rwandan champions to progress to the semis, which would see them take on either CARA Brazzaville of Raja Casablanca.

Playmaker Manishimwe who was signed by the Blues in 2015, from Isonga, is one of the most dependable players and his creativity in the midfield is expected to come in handy as Rayon seek to stun the two-time African champions on home soil.

In an interview with Sunday Sport before jetting off to Nigeria, the 20 year-old appealed to his teammates to take today’s clash against the Nigerian side as if their lives depend on it and be determined to register history in Nigeria.

“We are all focused on the return-leg match, no one is thinking of the first leg – which ended in goalless draw. What we are looking for in Nigeria is not a draw, we want to score goals and win the encounter. We have a chance to make history, and we are ready for the challenge,” the former Isonga youngster said.

“There is no doubt it’s going to be a tough call, overcoming Enyimba at home won’t come easy. But, we are capable of getting good results at home or away from home, and we have shown that in past matches in the tournament”.

On the other hand, with a continuous slump in the Nigeria Premier Football League, Enyimba will also be keen to improve their fortunes in the CAF Confederation Cup.

Manishimwe added, “We know how they are good at home but thankfully, we are also better away from home. We just have to play cautiously and avoid giving them a headway.”

Rayon has been in good form in the continental competition this season after becoming the first Rwandan side to reach the group stage in any Caf competition before defying odds to storm the round of last eight.

Rayon Sports’ assistant captain, Abdul Rwatubyaye, also sounded the battle cry, “We now know what to expect in Nigeria and we are determined to make history and qualify for the semifinals.”

“We got a vital win away from home against Gor Mahia in the group stage, and I am convinced we can do the same away in Nigeria,” the center-back added.

Coach Robertinho is expected to use the wing backs system with, three defenders, two defensive midfielders, two creative midfielders and a striker. Abouba Bashunga is expected to start in goal.

While Yannick Mukunzi will be the key absence in the squad, the team has been boosted by the return of skipper Thierry Manzi who missed two of their previous fixtures due to a two-match suspension by CAF.

He will partner with Ange Mutsinzi and Rwatubyaye in the defence.

Eric Rutanga and Saddam Nyandwi will be on left and right wing, respectively, while in the absence of Mukunzi, Robertinho is likely to use Olivier ‘Sefu’ Niyonzima and Prosper Kuka Donkor as holding midfielders. Manishimwe and Kevin Muhire will start in the attacking midfield, behind Burundian striker Bonfils Caleb Bimenyimana.

Head coach Roberto Oliviera, a former Brazil international, has insisted that hope is alive for Rayon Sports despite their 0-0 first leg draw in Kigali.

“My players are able to do well away from home. Motivation in the team is very high, and all the players are fit and determined to accomplish the mission in Nigeria,” he insisted.