Akwa United restored their four-point lead at the top of the Nigeria Professional Football League with a 2-1 victory over Nasarawa United in a top-of-the-table clash at Godswill Akpabio Stadium on Thursday.
Kennedy Boboye’s side had seen their lead at the top of the log reduced to just a point after they slipped to defeat at Katsina United and their title rivals Nasarawa United and Kano Pillars claimed victories in their respective fixtures on Sunday.
But with Pillars and Enyimba — who are also challenging for the title — failing to win their respective ties on Wednesday, the club went into the match against Bala Nikyu’s team needing a win to regain their four-point advantage.
They scored twice in the first half and, ultimately, that was enough to claim all three points and their 15th victory of the season, which moved them to 56 points from 30 games — four points clear of second-placed Nasarawa United and Pillars, who are level on points.
For the second straight game, the two-time Aiteo Cup winners, whose 18-game unbeaten run was brought to an end at Katsina United, played without three of their key players — Olisa Ndah, Seth Mayi and Charles Atshimene — who are away with the Nigeria senior men’s team.
Kennedy Boboye’s men started the game brightly and could have gone 2-0 up within ten minutes. Two glorious opportunities were blown away, with veteran striker Akarandut Orok culpable on both occasions.
In the third minute, a beautiful team move saw Etyboy Akpan play Samuel Amadi in and the winger cut the ball back to Orok, but the former CS Sfaxien man fired over the bar from six yards.
And minutes later, the forward had another chance to give his side the breakthrough following a cut-back from Ikechukwu Nwani. This time, to the disappointment of the Akwa bench, Orok failed to make contact with the ball.
At the other end, the visitors nearly fired in. Silas Nwankwo tried his luck from distance. The ball looked destined for the bottom corner, but goalkeeper Adewale Adeyinka managed to push it around the post.
On the half-hour mark, the hosts took the lead thanks to Amadi. The winger got fouled just outside the area after trying to dazzle past three Solid Miners defenders. The Rivers-born player dusts himself off and curled the resulting free-kick around the wall and into the back of the net to record his first goal for the Uyo club.
Barely five minutes later, the away side almost drew level. The ball fell kindly to I Uzochukwu following a cornerkick, but the defender headed over from four yards out.
And just before the break, the hosts got their second of the evening, with Marshall Johnson heading in Etyboy Akpan’s nice delivery at the back post.
The pace did slow down a bit after the interval, but few minutes after the hour mark, the home team showed flashes of brilliance like they did in the early stages of the game, following the introductions of youngsters Aliyu Abubakar and Godswill Nicholas. Midway through the half, Aliyu beat his marker and found Nwani with a clever pass. The winger cut the ball back to Amadi, who was lurking in the middle of the Nasarawa box. The former Warri Wolves man, though, could not beat goalkeeper Galadinma Mohammed from close range.
As the final whistle approached, Nasarawa United turned up the tempo and they were able to pull one back through Adamu Hassan’s spot-kick after Samson Gbadebo was adjudged to have fouled Chinedu Ohanachom, but Akwa United managed to hold on to the lead to secure all three points.
- Video: Akwa United win top-of-the-table clash with Nasarawa United
- 234football NPFL Team of Matchday 31: Brace scorers Nwankwo, Kalu get nod