Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM) FC defender Jonathan Zikiye is delighted that his side emerged with a decent result from their Champions League first leg game at AS Real Bamako on Sunday.
The modest Nigerian side defied all odds to force their hosts to a 1-1 draw on Sunday evening in the Malian capital despite suffering a number of injury blows during the encounter.
Nojeem Akinyemi gave MFM a shock lead on fifteen minutes but the hosts replied two minutes later through Mohammed Camara. Fidelis Ikechukwu’s MFM held on virtually through the skin of their teeth after they were forced to make three changes due to injuries to key players.
Adegboyega Adekunle was the first to be replaced after a collision with Real goalkeeper Adama Bamba on 40 minutes before dimunitive playmaker Chukwuka Onuwa also succumbed to injury after the hour mark.
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The final change came seventeen minutes from time when another attacker, Zinte Udeh came off injured. Ikechukwu then sent on Zikiye, a natural left back to play as a forward.
“We had a strategy from the coach on team tactics to come all out and play our game,” began Zikiye to www.aclsports.com “As things unfold, we lost three players to injuries and the only options that needed a cover was the attack.
“So our coach called and told me how experienced and important I am and that he believes I can improvise. So I went in as a striker so as to give the team balance upfront,” explains the former Kano Pillars star.
Zikiye was the only one in MFM’s Match Day squad to Bamako who had had a previous experience playing on the continent (with Dolphins in 2015).
Never has he played as an attacker in his professional career, an experience he recounts. “I used to play as a striker during my secondary school and Boys Club days but never since I became a professional.
“It was a good experience though but not easy as the pressure was much on us so I had to do a lot of running, marking upfront and also returning to help backwards,” he added.
The end – they say – justifies the means! The Church Boys held on for the final quarter of an hour and give themselves a chance to make home advantage count in Lagos next midweek.
“I’m happy that our efforts paid off in the end. Real Bamako is a good team filled with young players like us. We have seen their strong point but we hope to finish the good job in Nigeria next week,” concluded Zikiye.