Lobi Stars return to top spot with 2-1 triumph over Wikki
By Wale Mustapha
Two goals in the space of ten minutes earned Lobi Stars a 2-1 home win over Wikki Tourists in a Matchday 19 fixture of Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) in Makurdi on Sunday.
Utibe Arit Archibong headed in Samad Kadiri’s cross in the 10th minute before Austin Ogunye doubled the lead for Lobi Stars from the spot after Olayinka Onaolapo tripped him in the box.
The hosts could not hold on to record a clean sheet as Wikki atoned for their impressive second half performance through substitute Nasir Jibrin.
The victory helped Gbenga Ogunbote’s side climb to the top of the log after the first round of the league.
Ogunye could have given the hosts the lead inside three minutes into the match, but miscued his effort from close range.
Wikki keeper, Ibrahim Pius caught Duru Ebube’s cross meant for Samad Kadiri.
Samuel Mathias forced Pius to another one hand save yet again, but Utibe’s rebound was blocked by Peter Ambrose.
But the keeper had no response to Utibe’s flicked header in the 10th minute when he connected a pass from Samad.
Lobi could have doubled their lead in the 17th minute when the goalscorer, Utibe delivered a pass from Samad in the box, his effort hit side of the net.
Lobi got their second goal from the spot when Ogunye sent Pius the wrong side after he was upended by Olayinka Onaolapo.
Ogunye could have made it three for the hosts in the 27th minute but his low header couldn’t beat Pius.
Wikki grew into the match soon after as Olusola Ajala initiated a build up.
He fed Jibrin on the flank but the latter’s cross ran across phase of goal with no Wikki player to finish up.
Ajala would then try another shot from distance but went off target.
Usman Abd’Allah’s men created more chances in the closing stages of the first half but Manu Garba, Jackson Daniel and Idris Guda Mohammed failed to give Wikki something to cheer.
Wikki started the second half well and could have recorded a quick goal but Faith James saved Daniel’s tamed effort.
Both sides made changes to add bite and balance to their teams. Hassan Hussein replaced Manu Garba for Wikki while Sunday Adetunji came in for Austin Ogunye on the part of Lobi Stars.
Scoring chances were created soon after but both sides were short of ideas in the final third.
Wikki still looked the better side in most part of the second half even with some moments for the hosts.
Adetunji had the biggest chance of the second half for Lobi but couldn’t score.
Idris Guda, Jackson, and Ajala were left to rue their scoring opportunities for the Bauchi-based side.
The visitors were reduced to ten men with just a minute to end the match when Onaolapo was sent off for a second bookable offence.
But that would not stop Abd’Allah’s team from get their only goal when Jibrin capitalized on a let off in Lobi defence to shoot past James.
Lobi Stars head coach Ogunbote who admitted that his team was going through challenges in terms of late loss of focus said the victory has ward bit of pressure on him.
While playing down his side’s chances of going all the way to win the league, the former Rangers coach promised to record history for the club’s faithful.
“I’m happy with how we approached the match but I think we were being careless to let in the late goal I believe we will work on it as soon as possible.
“I think it’s just too early to be talking of winning the league. We still have as many as 19 matches to play, but what we will do is to continue to give our best at all times with more improvement, as you’ve known that I also set a target for myself anywhere I go and I’m working towards that by making history with this team with success in the end,” he said.
Abd’Allah told npfl.ng that the match was fair, adding that Lobi deserved the victory just as he blamed his side for their profligacy.
Abd’Allah who won the league with Enyimba last season expressed confidence that the Bauchi side will beat the drop at the end of the season.
“It was a fair game and I think Lobi deserved their win, they got their chances and converted them. No question about the goals, it’s just unfortunate that we were too wasteful with chances we had.
“I still think we are doing fine. This is the first defeat we have after the last games and points separating us with the rest above us aren’t that much so I’m confident we will escape the drop. We just need to keep improving.”
Abd’Allah will be heading to Aba to take on his former side, Enyimba in one of the rescheduled matches on Wednesday before hosting Lobi in the reverse fixture on Sunday in Bauchi.