New Telegraph

CAF Cups: The journey just began for our teams –Akpokona

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Veteran coach, Lawrence Akpokona, has said the battle to qualify for the Group stage of the CAF Champions League and the Confederation Cup’s playoff just started for the country’s representatives on the continent. At the weekend, Rivers United, Plateau United and Kwara United, all secured a home win against their opponents in the second qualifying round of the competition. Nigeria Professional Football League champion, Rivers Utd defeated Champions League defending champions, Wydad Casablanca 2-1 while Plateau Utd beat Esperance with the same scoreline. In the Confederation Cup, Kwara Utd came from a goal down to beat defending champion, Berkane of Morocco 3-1. Speaking on a radio programme recently, the former Rangers of Enugu coach said although they all won at home, there are too many disadvantages with the goals conceded.

“I was very happy we all won, but it also makes it more serious. They all conceded goals at home. UEFA has cancelled away goal at home and we trying to emulate it but I say it doesn’t matter. If it’s a draw, it is a draw. There are too many disadvantages in away goals,” he said. “Then number two, I think the journey has just begun. It’s a good thing they all won but I think they should hang it wherever they are and they shouldn’t have the mindset that they won. They should know that they are going there for a fresh match and have the mentality of keeping a clean sheet.

“The coach has to build his team. It’s the way you mould your team in every match, if the team can play as a unit, and attack as a unit, everybody must be a defender, take every opportunity to attack, and defend aggressively. Protect your goalkeeper and post.

“Another thing is the weather, the cold is setting in, I don’t know if they can get a thicker jersey because most of the matches are likely to be played at the night. It’s not what they saw here, they will see packed stadiums that will make a lot of noise. “It has to do with prepa-rations. They will not be friendly to you. The players might be nice but the fans, immediately you step into the stadium, it is war. They will do everything to distract you and make you angry, weak. and I don’t want to talk about officiating now but I’m very sure they will be at the advantage. So, they should prepare for anything.”

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