After continental outings, MFM, Akwa United face off
By Idowu Bakare
Two of Nigeria’s representatives on the continent MFM FC and Akwa United will slug it out in a rescheduled Matchday 8 of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) fixture on Friday at Agege Stadium.
Despite winning all their home games this season, MFM have failed to assert dominance in the manner they did last term when hosting teams at the Agege Stadium also nicknamed the Soccer Temple.
Nevertheless, the Olukoya Boys kicked off their debut campaign in the CAF Champions League on a positive note, picking an encouraging 1-1 away draw against Real Bamako of Mali.
Nojeem Akinyemi scored for MFM in their first-ever CAF game while AS Real Bamako’s Mohammed Camara equalized two minutes later.
With the result, Fidelis Ilechukwu’s men are expected to head into this game in high spirit having rested for an extra day after returning from the trip to Bamako.
The Church-owned team have won three of their opening seven games so far – losing four.
Meanwhile, Akwa United got off to a bad start in the CAF Confederation Cup as they lost 2-1 at home to Banjul Hawks of Gambia.
Mohammed Jallow and Lamine Chatty stunned the Promise Keepers with two first half strikes before Akwa United reduced the deficit in the 72nd minute.
Victor Mbaoma, who scored the Promise Keepers’ lone goal in the game expects his side to respond strongly when they square up with MFM.
“We are hopeful of getting the maximum points in Lagos,” Mbaoma said.
“The team is in high spirit despite our CAF Confederation Cup loss. We’ll correct our wrongs and get it right against MFM.”
Teammate Cyril Olisema added: “We are not down, but will be gunning for the maximum points against MFM on Friday.”
The Promise Keepers are currently top of the league standings with 16 points.
The Uyo-based team have recorded five wins, one draw and just a defeat in their opening seven matches – scoring 14 times and conceded just thrice.
MFM might be without some key attacking players going into this game. Attacker Adekunle Adegboyega and influential midfielder Chukwuka Onuwa are doubts after picking knocks against Real Bamako.
However, Sikiru Olatunbosun, who wasn’t registered for the CAF Champions League is in line to return to the lineup.
For Akwa United, coach Abdu Maikaba has a near-full squad to pick from after selecting his 20-man squad for the game.
The few notable absentees are former MFM midfielder Ifeanyi Ifeanyi and injured duo Musa Newman and Christian Pyagbara.
STARS TO WATCH
Victor Mbaoma: Akwa United’s efficient strike force has been spearheaded by Mbaoma this season. The former Remo Stars captain has netted five times in all competitions for the Promise Keepers this season after his move to MFM fell through.
Waheed Adebayo: Coach Ilechukwu seems to have put his trust in young attacker Waheed to play a free role in attack this season. Waheed is capable of scoring a few goals and providing a handful of assists – having scored two and provided an assist this season. The MFM youth-product is also adept in making runs to pull defenders away and create space for teammates.
It ended goalless when both teams met at Agege Stadium last season, while both teams played out a 1-1 draw at the NPFL Invitational Tournament in Kano before the league started.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
NPFL Invitational: Akwa United 1-1 MFM
21/02/17: MFM 0-0 Akwa United
19/04/2017: Akwa United 2-0 MFM
04/09/2016: Akwa United 3-1 MFM
30/04/2016: MFM FC 3-0 Akwa United