- Published on Friday, 25 August 2017 21:48
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By Sanipe Damiete
Akwa United beat hard-fighting Lobi Stars 2-1 in a keenly contested Matchday 36 fixture in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) at the Uyo Township Stadium on Friday.
With three games to go and stiff competition for continental spots especially from Enyimba on same point, Akwa United knew they needed not make any mistake as they started the brighter of the two sides.
Akwa United coach Abdu Maikaba made three changes to his team that lost in Nnewi last weekend, bringing on Ariwachukwu Emmanuel and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi back in the starting line-up after the duo helped the Super Eagles qualify for the 2018 CHAN tournament. Gabriel Okechukwu was called up to partner Musa Newman in attack while Afeez Aremu and Christian Pyagbara took their place on the bench. Their leading scorer Alhassan Ibrahim was not listed.
The Promise Keepers controlled the opening moments but there was nothing of note as Lobi did well to absorb the wave of attacks from Akwa that came mostly from the flanks but their crosses were mostly out of range. It took Newman 14 minutes to get the first real attempt when he created space for himself and fired his attempt wide from the edge of the box.
In the 20th minute, Okechukwu's well-struck free kick was deflected to a corner kick and the resultant corner kick produced the first goal as Newman rose highest to head home Ifeanyi's corner kick to give Akwa the lead.
Akwa continued to pressurize Lobi and came close to doubling the lead with Ifeanyi's free kick which curled just away from target in the 29th minute while an audacious cracker from about 30 yards from Cyril Olisema hit the woodwork on the half hour mark.
In the 33rd minute, a rare opportunity fell to Lobi as Anthony Okpotu slipped Uchenna Eze through on goal but the latter took so much time to hit the target under pressure from the Akwa's defence and Emmanuel Iwu came off his line to collect easily.
Okpotu then missed Lobi's best opportunity three minutes later when a good team build-up ended with Kingsley Eduwo setting up Okpotu who needed an easy tap in at the far post but hit his effort wide.
Lobi were made to pay for their missed opportunities in the 40th minute when a defensive blunder sees Newman slip Okechukwu through on goal and he calmly rounded the goalkeeper before tucking the ball into the net to double Akwa's lead.
Lobi do not have the most potent strike partnership in Okpotu and Eduwo for nothing as the two combined well to pull one back in the 44th minute as Sunday Akleche's pass to Okpotu seem too long but Okpotu stretched to cut back which Eduwo jabbed into the net to give Lobi a lifeline. The first half ended 2-1.
The fireworks seized in the second half after a good start when Friday Ubong's headed attempt struck the upright from an Ifeanyi's corner in the 49th minute.
Both coaches made changes to their sides but the score line remained same as Akwa did well to see out the game thereby having strong grip on third spot while Lobi's losing streak at Akwa continues. Akwa next face relegation-threatened Shooting Stars in Ibadan on Matchday 37.
Akwa United: Emmanuel Iwu; Ottobong Effiong, Kodjovi Dadzie, Lolo Christopher, Ariwachukwu Emmanuel, Godspower Igudia, Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, Cyril Olisema (Hassan Babangida 86'), Ubong Friday, Gabriel Okechukwu (Michael Ibe 90'), Newman Musa (Christian Pyagbara 69')
Unused subs: Ismaila Shagari, Ofem Inah, Counou Parterne, Aremu Afeez
Coach: Abdu Maikaba
Lobi Stars: Okiemute Odah; Bunde Moses, Ebube Duru, Ayagwa Raphael, Nya Dennis, Bright Okpojuvwewo, Nathaniel Joseph, Uchenna Eze (Cletus Itodo 88'), Akleche Sunday (Bello Ikeleji 77'), Anthony Okpotu, Kingsley Eduwo (Akor Isah Umoru 90+2')
Unused subs: Atsaka Daniel, Iorliam Gwaza, Eneji Otakpe, David Tyavkase
Coach: Solomon Ogbeide
Akwa United 2-1 Lobi Stars
On target: 3-1
Corner kick: 5-0
Joseph Nathaniel 34'
Gabriel Okechukwu 81'
Kingsley Eduwo 88'
Man of the Match: Musa Newman
Photo Gallery : Football Action
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