Anaemena proving his worth at Enyimba - FCNaija

NPFL By: Ambrose Udeme | 27/02/2018

Ifeanyi Anaemena, Enyimba FC

Up until the ball deflected off the shin of Ifeanyi Anaemena, wrongfooting Fatau Dauda in the 50th minute of Sunday’s meeting with Sunshine Stars, Enyimba had not conceded in nine NPFL home matches.

That unique bit of history was truncated by that fateful ricochet in the rain; beyond that, it brought a tense game level in less than ideal weather conditions. It placed the onus on the two-time African champions to do something they had not done all season long: score twice in a league game.

The pressure, then, was intense. On the team as a whole, but also on Anaemena who had, up until that point, been impeccable. Such a sterling defensive record is not held by accident: his pairing at the heart of the defence with Nelson Ogbonnaya has proven particularly profitable.

"The centre-backs and full-backs have been fantastic throughout the season," he told Enyimba Media.

"There is no particular focus on defence. My pairing with Nelson (Ogbonnaya) has been an encouraging one for me because I've played alongside him for two seasons now, and we've gotten a common understanding."

In the immediate aftermath of that concession, there was a different understanding for Anaemena: he needed to make amends. Four minutes after, he fired off a volley which was acrobatically tipped over by Moses Ocheje. Then, in the 70th minute: redemption.

Stanley Dimgba's pass into the path of Stephen Chukwude on the right set up a crossing opportunity. It also, however, meant there was a deficit of numbers in the middle. Charging up from the back to make it up was Anaemena, and the defender towered high to crash a header off the crossbar and in for the game's winner.

"Yeah, it was actually a power up for me - scoring an own-goal," he admitted.

"It never demoralized me, it gave me a positive mindset that I can get something out, and I thank God I actualized my dream of scoring the winning goal."

It is this single-minded determination that has seen Anaemena rise to prominence at Enyimba. The defender, who joined from Giwa FC in 2014, has risen to second vice-captain, and plays in an uncompromising style which has seen him thrive.

It is not, however, strictly a matter of brute force. There is some silk to go with the steel, and a fierce intelligence which has enabled him to adapt in all situations. He was expansive when asked how he coped with the teeming rain at the weekend.

"It was a rainy match, and anything can happen. The rain almost spoiled the match plan for us. We were able to keep our heads up, and play according to the demands of "rain ball" (sic): you have to take it all out, because any mistake can result in a goal as the grass is slippery."

His performances seem to have gone up a notch this season too, but he is keen to emphasize the progress the entire team has made. "It's not only [about] me," he insisted.

What it certainly is about is the glory of Enyimba. Anaemena admits the club has given him so much, and is looking forward to the challenge of the CAF Confederation Cup in early March.

"Enyimba being the best team in Nigeria has given a positive output by winning the Champions League consecutively, and so we have the mindset that we are going to back up the name that Enyimba have made."