Akwa United put up a devastating first-half performance to thrash in-form Lobi Stars 3-0 at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo for their ninth win of the season in one of the Matchday 18 games of the Nigeria Professional Football League.
The Promise Keepers’ head coach, Kennedy Boboye stuck with most of the players that pipped MFM at the Agege Stadium, Lagos last weekend with the ailing Ubong Friday the only absentee from the first 11 that secured the away win. Nasiru Jubril the replacement for the winger.
Lobi’s Kabiru Dogo also restricted himself to only three changes from the Pride of Benue that bagged two successive victories against Plateau United and Rivers United in Makurdi.
Ebube Duru was absent at the left-back and his place was taken by Moses Tsehuan while Aghahowa Alex was also another key omission. His position was filled by Chigozie Chilekwu. Jimoh Oni was replaced by Samuel Matthias in the start list.
It was Lobi Stars that started the game ferociously with the woodwork the saviour for Akwa United Goalkeeper, Adeyinka Adewale after Ossy Martins tried a long-range shot that almost sailed in.
It was Akwa United all the way after that major early scare and the home team were a goal up in the 17th minute through the strike of Ikechukwu Nwani barely five minutes after Ndifreke Effiong missed the target by the whiskers from a beautifully placed free-kick close to Pride of Benue’s vital area. Sampson Gbadebo is credited with the assist for Akwa United’s opener.
Before Lobi Stars could recover from that early setback they were trailing 2-0 by the 24th minute through the strike of former NPFL highest scorer, Mfon Udoh. Ndifreke Effiong’s defence-splitting pass evaded Lobi Stars’ sea of legs and Udoh was left one-on-one with Goalkeeper, Aliko Mustapha. He easily placed the ball beyond the reach of the veteran goalie for his fifth goal of the season.
There was still a chance for the third goal before the half time whistle. Udoh received a-squared pass from first goal scorer, Nwani and he was presented with the simple task of sidefooting the ball into the gaping net. It was his sixth of the season and Nwani had the assist.
At the start of the second half, Lobi Stars’ Dogo made some changes with the introductionn of Anthony Ogwuche and Solomon Agaigbe for Moses Tsehuan and Samuel Matthias in that order, ostensibly to keep the rampaging Promise Keepers at bay from wreaking more havoc.
Lobi were presented with a decent chance in the 56th minute when a good pass into the vital area of the home team left Ossy Martins through on goal and one on one with Goalkeeper, Adeyinka Adewale but the goaltender raced out of his goal area to clear the ball out of danger.
It went from bad to worse for the visitors in the 90th minute when their goalkeeper, Aliko Mustapha was adjudged to have handled the ball out of his goal area with Saddick Abbas clearly on the path of goal while one on one with the goalie. Mustapha was red-carded and after much hesitation, he was replaced by a striker, Segun Alebiosu with the Pride of Benue already exhausting their five substitutions.
It was an emphatic home win for Akwa United and it restored the Promise Keepers to the third position with 32 points from 18 games behind Kwara United and Kano Pillars who are a point better in the first and second spots.
Lobi Stars on the other hand slipped a place down to the 10th spot with 25 points from 17 games.
Akwa United manager, Kennedy Boboye was delighted that his wards maintained their winning streak but was disappointed that results from other centres didn’t favour them to hit the top two.
He nonetheless charged the Promise Keepers’ players to brace up for the task ahead as they travel to Lagos to face Sunshine Stars in the concluding fixture of the first stanza of the league.
“We are playing our game and as well as thinking of results from other centres too,” Boboye told www.dasportstainment247.com.
“If the results from other match venues had favoured us, we would have been in the second spot at the end of today’s games. But that didn’t happen because went to Katsina United to win and Kano Pillars won at the last minute against Heartland FC.
“We will continue fighting. We will have to go to Lagos and make sure we fight to get something from the game with Sunshine Stars.”
On his part, Lobi Stars coach, Kabiru Dogo rued his team poor first half and reiterated that the early goals unsettled his players and were unable to play to his instructions.
“We didn’t start the game the way we planned it,” Dogo confessed in a chat with www.dasportstainment247.com.
“We picked up late in the game. There was a loss of concentration in the defence. The goals Akwa United scored gave them an edge. The early goals made them comfortable and it made the game easy too for them,” he added.
Akwa United Team List
Adewale Adeyinka, Etim Mathew, David Philip, Morice Chukwu, Sampson Gbadebo, Olisa Ndah (Hamisu Saleh, 83′), Mfon Udoh (Dare Ojo, 74′), Ndifreke Effiong (C) (Marshall Johnson, 74′), Ikechukwu Nwani (Saddick Abbas, 83′), Seth Mayi, Nasiru Jibril (Adam Yakubu, 74′)
Bassey Akpan, Ali Chiwendu, Inemesit Sunday, Akarandut Orok
Goals: Ikechukwu Nwani 17′, Mfon Udoh (2) 24′, 45+1 (Akwa United)
Man of the Match: Mfon Udoh (Akwa United)
Lobi Stars Team List
Aliko Mustapha, John Lazarus, Chigozie Chilekwu, Duke Osimaga, Mutiu Ogundimu, Moses Tsehuan (Anthony Ogwuche, 46′), Tersoo Zenke (Carlos Geleya, 74′), Samuel Mathias (Solomon Agaigbe, 46′, Ossy Martins (Segun Alebiosu, 78′)
Douglas Achiv, Austin Ogunye (Jimoh Oni, 35′)
Daniel Atsaka, Emeka Isaac, Chinonso Okonkwo, Monday Akile
Coach: Kabiru Dogo
Yellow Cards: Ossy Martins, 25′, Chigozie Chilekwu, 39′, Jimoh Oni, 52′ (Lobi Stars)
Red Card: Aliko Mustapha, 90′ (Lobi Stars)