Plateau United extinguish 10-man Nasarawa United’s fightback
By Clement Nwankpa Jr
Plateau United dug deep to overcome a spirited effort by 10-man Nasarawa United at the Ultramodern Sports Complex, Zaria Road, Jos on Sunday.
Despite an inspired fight-back by the visitors, Plateau United completed a double on Nasarawa United winning 2-1.
Goals by Bature Yaro (11th minute) and Reuben Bala (71st minute) sandwiched Nasarawa’s solitary strike courtesy Najeem Olukokun in the 50th minute.
The hosts began the match on the front foot and the incessant raid on Nasarawa box resulted in a penalty after Sanusi Ibrahim fouled Reuben Bala. Yaro coolly slotted in from the spot in the 11th minute and refused to celebrate against his former team.
One shouldn’t be deceived by Yaro’s refusal to celebrate. He was a torn in the flesh of Nasarawa those earlier minutes cutting the picture of a player on a mission.
He had a contender for the worst free-kick of the season as early as the second minute when he ‘scared away all the birds in the arena’ but linking up with Tosin Omoyele and Seth Mayi, subsequently, he made life difficult for Nasarawa.
Meanwhile, Nasarawa came into the game desirous of avoiding defeat having lost 0-1 to Plateau in Lafia in the reverse fixture. But a 34th minute red card to Douglas Achiv meant they operated from a deficit position.
Achiv had upended Bala from behind for a second yellow and consequently a red card.
But four minutes after going one man down, Ikechukwu Nwani found his way to the by-line before teeing up Kabir Balogun who just needed a tap in, but shot tamely into Okiemute Odah’s hands.
Six minutes later, Plateau responded when Yaro’s free-kick stung Suraj Ayeleso’s palms.
At the restart, it was obvious Nasarawa coach Kabiru Dogo wanted to deploy Olukokun’s aerial prowess.
In the 47th minute, Balogun’s corner fell invitingly for Olukokun who nodded wide. That was a free header and a big let-off for Plateau.
Three minutes later, Olukokun didn’t miss when presented with a similar opportunity. He leapt highest to nod in Samson Oyedeji’s free-kick.
The 10 men were level and from the flow of the game, an unlikely result was in the offing.
This goal was Olukokun’s sixth of the season and the fourth with his head. His team mates were loading those crosses into Plateau box and most times, his head touched the ball. In the 55th minute, he nodded another effort narrowly wide.
When Nasarawa went a man down, everything pointed towards a total annihilation. But it wasn’t looking likely at this point.
Plateau coach, Kennedy Boboye had to do something. Otherwise, these ten men were going to embarrass his team.
Boboye went all-out attack bringing on Jesse Akila for Mayi. The hosts swung the momentum back on their side with relentless raids on the visitors’ box.
In the 63rd minute, Jimmy Ambrose’s shot was too hot for Ayeleso to handle and the veteran keeper could only parry the ball as far as Omoyele, who only needed a tap-in but missed target. What a response!
Three minutes later, Boboye yanked off Omoyele for Emmanuel Odafe.
Then in the 69th minute, Ayeleso pulled a world class save. The ball was lofted into Nasarawa box, Bala nodded down for Akila. The keeper was at Akila’s mercy, he hit the ball well, but Ayeleso made himself so big and the ball was in his hands, not parried. How on earth didn’t Akila score from there? How did Ayeleso stop that one? Many wondered.
It had to take something special to beat Ayeleso in this form and it came in the 71st minute.
Daniel Itodo’s throw-in was nodded out by Abdulbasit Shittu but Bala pounced on the loose ball and unleashed a bullet of a shot from 20 yards. Ayeleso couldn’t stop this one. He flung himself in that direction to no avail. It hit the roof of the net. Terrific strike. A deserved match winner any day.
But these ten men left the arena with their heads held high.
Dogo believes the first half red card undid his match tactics.
“We came here hoping to size them up within 15 minutes and attack after that. Then the red card came. All our game plan was shattered. We made changes we didn’t plan. It wasn’t easy”, he said.
Plateau goalkeepers trainer, Tunde Adedara, who spoke on behalf of Boboye, commended Nasarawa’s efforts.
His words: ” They really gave us a strong fight. You know, whenever a team is one man down, they are always more committed. They really fought like Warriors. This wasn’t easy at all”.
Plateau United 2-1 Nasarawa United
On target 5-2
Red card 0-1
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