Akwa Utd 1-1 MFM: Five things we learnt

Akwa United and MFM FC played out a 1-1 draw on Matchday 1 of the NPFL Invitational Tournament. Adekunle Adegboyega struck for MFM in the 56th minute while Ajibola Otegbeye equalised for Akwa from the spot in the 62nd minute. We learnt five things.

 

Onuwa misses Sikiru, Odey
Last season MFM coach Fidelis Ilechukwu likened his attacking trio of Stephen Odey, Sikiru Olatunbosun and Chukwuka Onuwa to then MSN (Messi, Suarez, Neymar) in Barcelona and BBC (Bale, Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo) in Real Madrid. That triumvirate has been distorted by Odey’s move abroad and Sikiru’s national team invitations. Onuwa does not seem the same without the duo. On one occasion (there were many such moments, though) in this game, Onuwa passed the ball backwards instead of driving his team forward and Ilechukwu screamed at him from the touchline. Hitherto, Onuwa would have released a pass forward to either Sikiru or Odey. The immediate impression is that Onuwa is missing his attacking partners. He corroborated this in a post match interview with npfl.ng. If MFM would make a headway next season, Onuwa needs to link up with Sikiru and new signing Victor Mbaoma (both are in the CHAN camp) as soon as possible.

Maikaba: A tiger sheds its skin
At Wikki Tourists, Abdu Maikaba earned a reputation of not making wholesome changes to his team after a season. He was noted for signing on just two or three players for the new season. But he appears to have departed from this at Akwa. There were five new faces in Akwa’s starting 11 for this game. And they are still in the market. The result of this was a performance that is ‘unmaikabaic.’ He attributed his team’s performance to fatigue from the just-concluded Ahlan Cup. But while league experts predicted that Maikaba’s touch on Akwa will be more manifest after about two seasons, his penchant for the ‘galacticos’ in his current assignment should not go unnoticed. Meanwhile, his excuse for this is that most of the players he deployed last season were on loan so were not part of his long term plans.

MFM could struggle on the continent
The signs from this game are ominous. A lot still needs to be done to make this team solid enough for the continent. The absence of like-for-like quality on the bench could undermine their aspirations. This season again, the team are primed to be so dependent on Mbaoma and Sikiru. And there is no assurance they can cope without these guys in the event of an exit, national team invitation, suspension or injury. Their timidity in the final third left a lot to be desired.

Ariwachukwu with point to prove
Akwa’s stand-in captain, Emmanuel Ariwachukwu was left out of the 30-man list for CHAN camp. The defender’s experience oozed throughout the game and ensured keeper Emmanuel Iwu was rarely threatened. Obviously a man on a mission and highly motivated too. He admitted this much afterwards. The national team coaches are here, so will not be bad to let them see what they are missing.

Ilechukwu bemoans depleted bench
Due to issues with players’ clearance, MFM had only three players on the bench after LMC insisted that only properly cleared players should be fielded. Ilechukwu admitted his options were limited and that the team would have fared better with more playing personnel. That is not contentious.