By Mfoniso Williams
Ndifreke Effiong netted a dramatic stoppage-time equalizer to salvage a 1-1 draw for Akwa United against Warri Wolves in the Nigeria Professional Football League at the Nest of Champions on Sunday.
With the game going into added time, it looked like Wolves were going to claim their second away win of the season after they took the lead through Wisdom Jumbo’s 76th-minute lead from the spot. But Effiong, who was lively all evening, managed to find the back of the net from close range — following a spell of sustained pressure from the hosts — to become the first player to hit double figures this season.
The hosts created a flurry of chances, but poor finishing let them down. Akarandut Orok missed a sitter after good work from Effiong. Wolves, to some extent, owe their point to the brilliant goalkeeping of Godwin Ameh, who twice denied Ubong Friday.
In a largely one-sided affair, Evans Ogenyi’s team could not even muster a shot on target. In fact, they had only one real chance all evening — and that was in the second half when Abu Azeez broke free from Samson Gbadebo.
Akwa started the game strongly and nearly went in front after five minutes through Ndifreke Effiong, who connected with Morice Chukwu’s corner. The striker could not keep his effort on target, though, and the ball sailed just wide of the crossbar.
Friday then sent a looping shot towards Ameh’s goal. The ball looked destined for the top, only for the goalkeeper to brilliantly tip it over the bar. Olisa Ndah nodded the resulting corner wide.
Five minutes before the break, Morice Chukwu saw a his freekick deflected behind for a corner and moments later, Effiong produced a fine dummy to create shooting space, but then fired wide of the far post.
Barely a minute after resumption, Friday tested Ameh again from long range — but the goalie produced yet another stunning save to keep out the Nigeria international’s effort. Few minutes later, Ukeme Williams had a chance to score his first Akwa United goal but opted to cut back. The ball bounced off a Wolves player and came back to him. This time the midfielder tried to score himself, but Ameh managed to save.
Friday then tried to latch on to a through ball. Ameh came off his goalline to stop the danger, but in the end spilled the ball. He got away with it, as Friday — who leapt to avoid a collision with the goalkeeper — had gone far away from the ball.
Effiong had another chance to put his side ahead after Chukwu’s freekick was deflected into his path. The forward hesitated and Ameh gathered.
Kennedy Boboye’s side then suffered a scare when Azeez found himself clear on goal after wriggling his way past Gbadebo. Jean Efala did well to come off his box to clear.
Captain Otobong Effiong broke the hearts of the home side in 76th minute, as he gave away a penalty. Making his second consecutive start, the right-back clipped Samuel Amadi from behind, giving the referee no choice than to point to the spot. And Jumbo perfectly dispatched the penalty to give the Seasiders the lead.
Akwa then threw in everything to equalize and Effiong went close in the 81st minute with a header, which Ameh pushed over the bar. Six minutes later, the former Abia Warriors man had another headed opportunity, but this time he failed to hit target.
And just before stoppage time, substitute Michael Ohanu saw his close-range effort kept out by Ameh. The ball was played to the forward after the goalkeeper spilled a cross close to the byeline. Ohanu thought he had found the net, only for the goalie to appear from nowhere and push the effort over the top.
But two minutes into added time, Effiong atoned for his earlier misses by tucking home from close range to earn his side a draw and move to the top of the goalscorers’ chart with ten goals —
The result keeps Akwa in fourth place — four points behind leaders Plateau United, who pulled off a goalless draw at Lobi Stars — and leaves Wolves 14th on the log.
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