Nasarawa Utd survive Plateau Utd scare, pick first point
Nasarawa United and Plateau United played out a thrilling 1-1 draw in a Matchday 4 tie at the Lafia City Stadium.
The hosts may have needed maximum points like oxygen, going into the game, but on the balance of play, they were lucky to escape with a point.
For the large part of the game, Plateau seemed the more likely to win this one but as they say ‘football is like biscuit, you don’t know where it would break’.
How else could one explain the fact that after Plateau had recorded four attempts on target, the Solid Miners who had struggled in the final third for most of the first half grabbed the opener through Anas Yusuf in the 43rd minute, with just their second attempt on target?
The Peace Boys never deserved to lose here and fittingly levelled up in the 52nd minute through Mustapha Ibrahim.
Going into this tie, both teams had contrasting fortunes. While Plateau were yet to drop a point in three games and sat at the top, Nasarawa United were second to bottom and yet to pick a point in three games.
Simply put, Plateau had won all three games while Nasarawa had lost all three.
Nasarawa’s quest to pick their first points in the game was not guaranteed having lost their only home game before this one, against Wikki. Similarly Plateau had been impressive away, beating Jigawa United in their only game on the road before this one.
Plateau had shown signs of the form that made them win the title in 2017. The team struggled under Abdu Maikaba in his first season as head coach last term but for the former Akwa United helmsman, who is noted to put together solid teams, it was more of a transitional season.
Maikaba never hid his intention of mounting a title challenge this season and was really backing words with action given the team’s performances.
Plateau are not short of experienced campaigners, who can be trusted to nick positive results on any ground in the NPFL, but they were up against a young Nasarawa side desirous to get their season up and running.
On their day, Bala Nikyu’s wards are noted to be a handful at the Lafia City Stadium. This reputation was well enhanced last season as they came close to picking a Super Four spot before a capitulation towards the end of the season.
But this game was always going to be a case of who needed it most. Nasarawa needed it most as it would have been very embarrassing having zero point after four games and losing back-to-back home games. This however looked a big possibility for the larger part of the game. Ultimately, that burning desire not to drop all points helped the hosts’ cause.
Nasarawa left the starting block strongly in the 1st minute when Anas Yusuf’s shot glided across the goal post. Ismaila Mayaki retrieved the ball down the left but his exquisite cross was nodded wide by Abubakar Lawal.
But the next minute, Michael Ibeh’s close range effort was held by Mohammed Galadima.
In the 4th minute, Nasarawa seemed to have sustained the pressure when Anas’ delivery from a free-kick fell invitingly for Hamza Owolabi at the edge of the box and his effort wasn’t too far from target.
Plateau seemed in cruise control from the 5th minute when Ibeh’s cross forced the game’s first corner off Galadima.
The next minute, Andrew Ikefe latched unto a loose ball but his left-footed volley was off-target.
At this point, Plateau dominated possession with Uche Onyeasoanya, Isah Ndala, Ibeh and Charles Henlong (in his favourite number 1 jersey) holding sway in the midfield.
In the 12th minute, Nenrot Silas’ speculative long range shot missed target by inches but a similar attempt by Silas, a minute later, rattled Galadima leading to a corner.
Then in the 25th minute, Ndala tried to catch Galadima off-guards with a lob from about 25 yards but the keeper was alert and saved the situation.
Mustapha Ibrahim was put through on goal in the 32nd minute but with the keeper at his mercy, he fell down under pressure from Manga Mohammed and Moses Tsehuan. There was a penalty appeal but center referee, Basheer Salisu thought otherwise.
Then came the miss (or was it save?) of the game in the 36th minute. Mustapha Ibrahim teed-up Onyeasoanya for a simple tap in. Everybody at the arena believed the visitors should take the lead that moment, but Onyeasoanya’s effort was tipped over by Galadima.
From the ensuing corner-kick, Ndala unleashed a low pile driver headed for goal but Galadima again parried into corner.
The hosts were on the edge and it seemed a matter of time before they trailed. At this stage, all the game’s four attempts on target were by Plateau.
But in a rare attack in the 40th minute, Owolabi profited from Abubakar Lawal’s pass, but his sublime hit was parried into corner by Anozie.
That was Nasarawa’s first corner and summed up their performance till that moment. But they took the lead three minutes later. Anozie failed to deal with Mayaki’s shot allowing Anas to bundle in the rebound.
The hosts resumed the second half the way they ended the first – on the front foot.
A minute after game restarted, Anas met Solomon Chidi’s cross in Plateau box, chested the ball down but failed to keep his shot low.
Solomon had become Nasarawa’s go-to man and in the 48th minute, his cross was nodded into Anozie’s hands by Abubakar Lawal.
Plateau didn’t remain on back foot for long. In the 52nd minute, Ibrahim nodded in Itodo’s cross for the equaliser.
They would have gone ahead in the 53rd minute but Onyeasoanya’s curler was deflected to the upright and into corner.
The introduction of Oche Ochowechi for Ndala in the 68th minute added more impetus to Plateau’s charge.
Ochowechi was involved in most of Plateau’s dangerous incursions afterwards.
In the 70th minute, Galadima was caught in possession by Ochowechi. The playmaker selflessly passed to Mustapha Ibrahim to finish off but the latter rather hit aimlessly as Galadima rallied to parry into corner.
Ibrahim reciprocated Ochowechi’s gesture in the 74th minute with a well-measured cut-back but Ochowechi’s shot went narrowly wide.
While the hosts huffed and puffed in search of a winner, the impressive Onyeasoanya had other ideas as his long range canon stang Galadima’s palms in the 85th minute.
The result was disappointing to the home fans who craved for a win, but a draw was fair enough even as any neutral would agree that if any team deserved the maximum points, it was Plateau United.
Plateau remain unbeaten while Nasarawa still have to wait for their first win of the season.
Nasarawa United: Mohammed Galadima; Abdullahi Abubakar, Maiyaki Ismaila Idriss, Bello Abdullahi (Muhammad Abdalla 81′), Manga Mohammed, Moses Tsehuan, Solomon Chidi (Godfrey West 80′), Hamza Owolabi, Abubakar Lawal (Paul Seun 59′), Anas Yusuf, Victor Okoro
Substitutes not used: Danlami Umar, Ibrahim Matthew, Uloko Ujah, Ismaila Mohammed Alhaji
Plateau United: Chinedu Anozie; Mike Zaruma (Hamisu Sale 61′), Daniel Itodo, Isah Ndala (Oche Ochowechi 68′), Andrew Ikefe, Buhari Ibrahim, Nenrot Silas, Charles Henlong, Mustapha Ibrahim (Jesse Akila 77′), Mike Ibeh, Uche Onwuasoanya
Substitutes not used: David Obiazor, Wash Bitrus, Abba Umar, Bashir Usman
Caution: Daniel Itodo (18′)
Nasarawa United 1-1 Plateau United
On target 6-6
Yellow card 0-1