Plateau United coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu, says his team were not intimidated by Esperance’s track record on the continent, ahead of their CAF Champions League preliminary round against the Tunisians on Sunday.
Plateau came from behind to triumph over the dreaded North Africans 2-1 in the first leg of the second preliminary round game in Abuja on Sunday, and the margin could have been wider but for the home side’s wastefulness in front of goal.
The result ended Esperance’s nine-game invisible run against Nigerian clubs, spanning 32 years.
Ilechukwu said, ‘’Before this game, we knew that Esperance were one of the best teams in Africa presently, and when you want to play such teams, you have to be positive. So, first half, one goal down, I made the boys realise we could win by the margin we want.
“At the end of the day, we scored twice and we created so many chances that we didn’t convert, which is very painful, because that was a game we should have won like 5-2 or 6-2. However, for the boys to come back from a goal down and win 2-1, it shows they can do anything, anywhere and anytime.”
Long-serving defender, Daniel Itodo, was instrumental to the two goals Plateau United scored, providing both assists with his trademark long throws.
‘’My long throwing ability has been part of our strategy since I’ve been at Plateau United. It happened in the game, we had the opportunity. After I did the first one and we scored with it, I was hoping another chance would come and it came. Then we did it.”
The last time Esperance were beaten by a Nigerian club was in 1990 against Heartland. The Naze Millionaires progressed to the semis after winning 3-2 on aggregate and hopefully, Plateau United will draw inspiration to repeat the feat.
Plateau United will remain in Abuja to continue their preparations for the second leg before jetting out for Tunisia later in the week.