By Nnamdi Ezekute:
KAA Gent defensive midfielder, Anderson Esiti, says he was thrilled confronting his football idol, Victor Wanyama, in a midfield battle when they hosted and defeated Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 in the UEFA Europa League first leg, Round of 32 match on Thursday night, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
The Nigerian turned out well as he played the whole 90 minutes for KAA Gent. He also shackled Wanyama effectively in the midfield. But it was the experience of being on opposing sides with his idol that gave him more to cheer about.
"He's one of my idols. When I sat, I watched all videos of how he played for Celtic in Portugal," Esiti told Voetbalkrant of the Kenya international and former Beerschot, Celtic and Southampton star.
Esiti recalled that Wanyama was not in the right frame of mind to accept his salute as a fan after Tottenham lost the match at the Ghelamco Arena.
"I told him that I was a big fan, but I think he was not in the mood," Esiti laughed.
"He said: 'Yes, yes,' but perhaps didn't quite hear what I said or that maybe I overpowered him. But it was not it. Esiti against Wanyama? It was my team against his."
Esiti would also admit that he he played his most physical game against Tottenham, but was determined to assert himself in the fray and help his team win.
He remarked: "I've never seen so many battles fought and so many contacts felt like today. They are strong guys, hey. This was a good match."
"I had indeed cramps, but I just had to keep going, you never knew when you would encounter a dangerous situation.
"I went down, but said to myself.. 'Not now, when you have to work for the team. That worked and we won."
Edit also fielded a question of why Gent have failed to replicate in the league, that kind of superb all round showing against Tottenham, a strong English Premier League side.
He responded: "Everyone was spectacularly good today (Vs Tottenham. Why it's not same in the league is a mystery to me. Sometimes we also have bad luck."
Gent will be hosted by Standard Liege in the Belgian Jupiler League this Sunday – February 19. They are current placed eighth in the table. Their UEFA Europa League Round of 32 second leg against Tottenham comes up next week – Thursday, February 23 at Wembley Stadium.