Plateau United continue dominance over Nasarawa United, extend lead at the top
By Clement Nwankpa Jr
Plateau United beat a resurgent Nasarawa United 2-1 at the New Jos Stadium to remain top of the NPFL log on Sunday.
Nasarawa have enjoyed a new lease of life in recent weeks after languishing in the relegation zone for most part of the season.
The Solid Miners had won four of their last five games going into this game. Moving out of the relegation zone for the first time this season after beating Rangers in a rescheduled game about two weeks ago.
Going into this game, Nasarawa were in 13th position, a spot that looked very unlikely till the recent turn of events.
Meanwhile, Plateau were unbeaten in eight games, winning five and drawing three, since losing to Sunshine Stars in Akure on Matchday 15.
Both teams had good results on Matchday 23. Plateau beat Wikki 1-0 in Bauchi while Nasarawa thrashed Katsina United 3-0 in Lafia. But Nasarawa’s victory was marred by the death of defender Chineme Martins who slumped and died during the game.
This wasn’t your regular NPFL Matchday. From all the players wearing black arm bands in honour of Martins to the minute silence before kickoff and the round of applause in the 20th minute (Martins donned number 20), the scenario evoked emotions.
But Nasarawa were desirous of getting a positive result not just to boost their survival hopes, but in memory of Martins noted for his calm disposition at the back.
The hosts were however not willing to take prisoners in their quest to consolidate their place at the top.
The reverse fixture had ended 1-1 on Matchday 4, a result that ushered in a plethora of unpleasant results that plunged Nasarawa deeper into the drop zone till the current resurgence.
A game against Plateau United is always one Nasarawa relished due to the states’ proximity and North Central rivalry but the Solid Miners had not had much to cheer from the tie in the past five seasons.
Nasarawa had not beating Plateau in their last 10 engagements before this one. In fact, they had not picked a point in Jos in their last five visits.
The visitors set out to banish ghost of the poor results against the Peace Boys but they were always going to meet a huge brick wall here. The game’s first attempt at goal came in the 4th minute from Plateau’s Sunday Anthony but his feeble attempt from Mustapha Ibrahim’s knockdown was easily picked by Goalkeeper Danlami Umar.
Eight minutes later, a lovely one-two exchange between Plateau’s attacking duo Abba Umar and Mustapha Ibrahim saw the former through at goal but his well-struck low shot was grabbed by Danlami.
Then in the 14th minute, Oche Ochowechi got to the byline, picked out Anthony but with Danlami already displaced, Anthony jabbed over the bar.
Nasarawa attacker Chinedu Ohanachom was having difficulties beating the hosts’ offside traps while Plateau laid siege on the Solid Miners. It seemed a matter of time before the hosts took the lead and in the 25th minute, Ebuka Anaekwe handled the ball in the box. From the ensuing penalty, two minutes later, Amos Gyang dispatched the ball to the roof of the net to give Plateau the lead.
The hosts were further spurred by the goal and in the 35th minute came a script from the training ground. Gabriel Wassa’s cross was nodded down by Umar for Mustapha who volleyed wide.
Plateau seemed the most likely to notch the next goal but against the run of play, in the 40th minute, Danlami’s kick saw Ohanachom tussling with Plateau’s last man in defense, Ibrahim Buhari. Buhari missed an attempted clearance opening the door for Ohanocham to blast past an advancing goalkeeper, Dele Ajiboye for his seventh of the season.
But Plateau could still have led at halftime but after Ochowechi swerved past a sea of legs, he saw his shot from the edge of the box miss target by whiskers. That was virtually the last kick of the half.
After the restart, the Peace Boys continued from where they stopped in the first half. Two minutes into this half, Amos Gyang’s diving header off Sunday Anthony’s cross went wide.
Five minutes later, Plateau’s two full backs combined to miss a glorious opportunity. Right-back Ibrahim Abubakar put the ball on the plate for advancing left-back Wassa but with the goalkeeper at his mercy, Wassa shot agonisingly wide.
The Mustapha/Umar combo in attack was giving the visitors all sorts of problems. In the 72nd minute, Mustapha passed to Umar who needed no second invitation to hit the ball from a little outside the box but it went wide.
Plateau kept pushing and in the 82nd minute, Mustapha nodded in Ibrahim Abubakar’s cross for what turned out the match winner.
Nasarawa made efforts to charge forward and secure an unusual point in Jos but Plateau neutralized them and even looked more likely to extend their lead.
Five minutes from full-time, Umar hit a speculative effort from range which was cuddled by Danlami.
Plateau had done enough to bag maximum points and extend their lead at the top to four points after Rivers United and Lobi Stars lost at Rangers and Heartland respectively. For Nasarawa, that search for a point at Plateau extends to another season.
Plateau United: Dele Ajiboye, Ibrahim Abubakar, Gabriel Wassa, Isah Ndala, Andrew Ikefe, Buhari Ibrahim, Amos Gyang (Uche Onwuasoanya 70′), Oche Ochowechi, Mustapha Ibrahim, Abba Umar (Tosin Omoyele 88′), Sunday Anthony
Substitutes not used: David Obiazo, Chizoba Amaefule, Bitrus Wash, Charles Henlong, Benjamin Turba
Cautions: Isah Ndala (32′), Mustapha Ibrahim (83′)
Nasarawa United: Danlami Umar, Ibrahim Matthew, Ebuka Anaekwe, Mayaki Idriss, Franklin Tebo, Moses Tsehuan, Anas Yusuf (Abubakar Lawal 66′), Victor Okoro, Haggai Katoh (Abdallah Mohammed 64′), Chinedu Ohanachom, Ikenna Offor
Substitutes not used: Galadima Mohammed, Bashiru Mansour, Abubakar Abdullahi, Dauda Maigishiri, Chidi Solomon
Cautions: Victor Okoro (28′), Chinedu Ohanachom (31′)
Plateau United 2-1 Nasarawa United
On target 9-1