Apena, Faleye, Olukokun inspire Shooting Stars' comeback against gritty Gombe Utd

By Alfred Okoligwe

The trio of Jide Apena, Sunday Faleye and Najeem Olukokun were in the centre of things as they galvanized Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) to a nervy 2-1 win over a spirited Gombe United side in Sunday's Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) matches at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Ibadan.

Both men started from the bench. Apena made his return from injury after a lengthy spell out while Olukokun has remained down the pecking order of strikers preferred by Shooting Stars coach Fatai Amoo.


However an inspired second half substitution helped Shooting Stars temporarily ease their relegation worries.

Amoo's team found the going difficult against a well-organized Gombe United team aiming for a result to equally beat the drop this season. The visitors defended deep in their half from the outset and resorted to counter-attacks to trouble the home team.

The trio of Abdulwaheed Afolabi, Sani Abbani and Musa Usman were a handful as their quick counter-attacking play troubled the Shooting Stars defence. Gombe United should have been a goal up in the 42nd minute when Abanni with the Shooting Stars goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar at his mercy in the box, fluffed what was the best chance of the half. An inch-perfect cross from the right was missed by Abbani to the shock of the Gombe United bench.

The first half ended in a stalemate.

The crowd at the Lekan Salami Stadium, mostly filled by supporters of Shooting Stars, was stunned 10 minutes into the second half when the unthinkable happened. The visitors went a goal up through Musa Usman.

The visitors sat back and allowed Shooting Stars to have a go at them. When the home team lost possession just outside their box, Gombe United poured forward in numbers and it was the quick thinking of Musa Usman that made the goal. The striker let fly from just after the halfway mark as a badly positioned goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar stood no chance to deny the Savannah Scorpions from going into the lead.

The home team needed an equalizer and Amoo had to make changes. Youngster Sunday Faleye replaced Tayo Adebogun and Jimoh Wasiu made way for Olukokun. The game was turned on its head in the 69th minute when newly introduced Jide Apena was tripped in the box for a penalty to Shooting Stars.

Shooting Stars captain on the day, Seun Akinyemi calmly slotted in the penalty to level the score at 1-1 after 72 minutes. From this point, it was anybody's game and who wants it more gets it.

The comeback was complete in the 79th minute when the duo, Faleye and Olukokun, introduced in the second half, combined to give Shooting Stars the winner albeit with a little slice of good fortune. Faleye turned his marker in the box to unleash a ferocious shot that the Gombe United goalkeeper Ahmed Yusuf could only parry to the path of Olukokun who only directed the ball into the net to leave Gombe United heartbroken.

Shooting Stars have now moved a point clear the relegation zone with 43 points, and occupy 14th position. Gombe United remain in 19th position with 37 points.

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