- Published on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 10:19
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By Sammy Wejinya
Total football in all its versatility is likely to be the order of the day when two sides, brimming with confidence go toe to toe at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in a rescheduled Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) game on Wednesday with huge significance on both ends of the table.
Akwa United will move to within two points of the leaders, Plateau United if they inflict defeat on Rivers United who would in turn be dragged even deeper into the relegation dogfight in the event of such a scenario playing out in Port Harcourt.
The Promise Keepers have been in fine fettle; playing expansive football and racking up positive results that have seen them emerge as one of the big hitters in the division this season.
Akwa United are a beautiful side to watch with Abdu Maikaba, a football purist and an unapologetic admirer of tiki-taka exponent, Pep Guardiola, transforming the side to one of the most aesthetic in the land.
Akwa United goalkeeper, Olorunleke Ojo is one of three stoppers currently with most clean sheets this season. He has 12 clean sheets alongside Nasarawa United's Suraj Ayeleso and Mustapha Aliko. The athletic shot-stopper will be fired up for multiple reasons, to try to keep the Rivers United front men at bay.
Maikaba also has an almost water-tight defence to rely on with individuals like Ofem Inah, Chigozie Chilekwu, Emmanuel Ariwachukwu and Ofem Inah holding sway in that department.
Inah knows Port Harcourt well having helped United to a second-place finish in the NPFL last season; he will come to Port Harcourt with a point to prove on Wednesday.
Akwa United’s midfield pearl, Aremu Afeez is a darling amongst the Port Harcourt football faithful having served with distinction at Rivers United last term.
Another Akwa United star who knows Port Harcourt like the back of his hand is Christian Pyagbara and the attacker knows what it feels like to score at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium having previously done that plenty of times in his career.
The Uyo club are blessed with slick-playing individuals that can turn a game around in a heartbeat; Counou Paterne, Friday Ubong, Musa Newman, Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, Cyril Olisema and Alhassan Ibrahim are names that effortlessly roll off the tongue and strike fear into the hearts of many an opposition side.
Maikaba, predictably, is in bullish mood ahead of Wednesday’s game; he wants a decent result in Port Harcourt and was forthright as he voiced his sentiments ahead of the game.
“No two teams are the same; you cannot compare the Akwa United of last season with the Akwa United of this season.
“The match Akwa United played against Rivers United at the end of last season was different from the game played between both sides at the start of this season.
“I also expect the game between both sides on Wednesday to be different as well.
“My prayer is that we get our acts together and make use of this match (against Rivers United) because that will take us very close to the top of the log,” he said.
Akwa United may appear to be the favourites on paper but they meet a Rivers United side on a renaissance.
The Pride of Rivers produced their best display of the season (domestically) on Sunday to dismantle Wikki Tourists 3-1 in Port Harcourt (their biggest win in the NPFL this term).
Emeka Ogbugh who scored an outrageous goal in the win over the Tourists, along with man-of-the-match, Chiwendu Ali are unanimous in their pre-match submissions that the win over Wikki could turn out to be the catalyst for the side’s fortunes this season.
“The performance on Sunday against Wikki will spur us to get a continental ticket either through the league or the Aiteo Cup,” Ogbugh said.
Ali was outstanding against Wikki on Sunday and wants an encore on Wednesday against high-flying opposition.
“I had not been playing for a while but now that I am back to the team, it is a good thing.
“I scored against Wikki and will want to do the same against Akwa United on Wednesday,” he said.
This one will certainly be a rip-roaring affair with fireworks expected.
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