Kenyan international Amos Ekhalie and his mate Anthony Dafaa had a faulty start to their UEFA Champions League experience as their Finnish team, Mariehamn got a rude welcome to Europe’s elite club competition, falling 0 – 3 at home to Polish side Legia Warsaw on Wednesday 12 July.
Mariehamn had to finish the game with ten men after Dafaa was handed two yellow cards within four minutes while Ekhalie went on to feature full time as the duo’s Champions League debut ended on a sour note.
Dafaa headed to the game buoyed by a goal for his team in their weekend match but the former Bandari forward’s evening would end early as he was shown his first yellow card on the 56th minute and the second followed on the hour mark, sending him to the showers 30 minutes ahead of his team.
The joy that marked the win over Ilves at the Wiklof Holding Arenaon Sunday 23 October 2016, which secured the league title for Mariehamn and guaranteed them a place in the Champions League qualifiers, was nowhere as the reality of European football was shoved down on them in brutal fashion by the Poles.
By the time of Dafaa’s sending off, the frustration was already at its peak, Mariehamn already having conceded three first half goals, courtesy of Brazilian Guilherme Costa’s eighth minute penalty, Dominic Nagy’s 39th minute strike and the third a minute to the break from Casper Hamalainen.
The home loss sets the Finnish champions’ trip to Warsaw for the return leg in delicate balance. Their script needs them to win by a three goal margin against a team that has lost just once at home in the last 11 Champions League matches.
The Wednesday 19 July game will be even tougher without Dafaa, who has been dependable for the team lately.