Ufere scores as Kwara United edge Wikki Tourists in relegation battle
By Ayobami Animasahun
Kwara United claimed six metaphorical points with a 1-0 home win against Wikki Tourists in the Nigeria Professional Football League Matchday 24 fixture at the Kwara State Sports Complex.
Chinedu Ufere’s second half goal earned the Harmony Boys a huge stake in their bid to escape relegation and ended a run of six league matches without a win for the Ilorin-based club.
Kwara United had injected four new players into the line up that started last week’s 2-1 defeat at Jigawa Golden Stars. Goalkeeper Abdullateef Ishola, Issa Magaji, Fabian Nworie and Otegbeye Ajibola replaced Emmanuel Iwu, Omolayo Ibrahim, Ejeh Isaiah, and Chinedu Onyelonu. Head coach, Abdullahi Biffo, who missed the trip to Kano due to illness, also made a return to the touchline.
In the camp of the visitors, head coach Usman Abd’Allah made six changes from the last starting line up against Plateau United, handing Nzwekesi Arinze, Victor Alegbe, Sadiq Suleiman, Mansoor Aliyu, Naseer Jibrin, and Promise Damala a berth from the first minute.
After a minute silence was observed in the honour of the late Chineme Martins, the match got off to a rather unfortunate note. Barely thirty seconds after the kick off, Abdusalam Abdusalam suffered a broken leg from collision with Hassan Abubakar. The medic team instantly responded to the situation and the Kwara United attacker was transported to hospital.
The injury tasked both set of players with a mental challenge to overcome the first-minute setback and they decently responded. Kwara United grew into the game and waited till the 24th minute before having their first clear cut opportunity at goal.
Saidu Issa, who replaced the injured Abdusalam, broke free from the left after a nice interplay with Ufere but his effort beat the goalkeeper and the goalpost. Ufere soon made his own attempt two minutes later but his volley from 22 yards sailed well over the bar.
Afterwards, the game eventually turned into a one-sided affair as home fans cheered the Harmony Boys in hope for a first half lead that never came. Wikki Tourists goalkeeper Ibrahim Pius played a key role in keeping the first half goalless as his flailing leg denied Joshua Agboola from close range on the half hour mark. Ajibola Otegbeye ended the half with the worst missed chance as he inexplicably hit the crossbar from five-yards out after the ball had slipped from the palms of Pius.
The game restarted with slow intensity and the first real chance of the half came at the hour mark. Swift counter attack saw Sikiru Kamal feed Ufere but his scrambled shot did not trouble the goalkeeper. Wikki Tourists instantly launched an attack and were presented their best chance of the game. Victor Alegbe broke on the right side of the opposition box and sent a cutback for Promise Damala but his miscued shot from the penalty spot crawled harmlessly off target.
Apart from failing to win in their last six league matches, Kwara United had also failed to score in the second half of the said matches and the run seemed set to continue until the 82nd minute when the half-filled stadium was sent into celebration mood. Ufere rose highest to meet Kamal’s corner kick and expertly directed his header beyond the reach of the goalkeeper.
The goal opened up the game as both teams had half chances gone begging to be converted. However, the best of such opportunities came in the first minute of added time when Adah Stephen sets up an overlapping Dede Moughara in the box but the defender’s shot missed target from close range.
Speaking to npfl.ng after the win, Kwara United assistant coach, Ashifat Suleiman, praised the effort of his team to break a resolute opposition.
“It was a very good game. You can see that we fought till we got the needed goal for this match and we were able to add three points from this game. It was a massive game. You can see that Wikki Tourists are a better side too. They made it difficult but we were able to break the deadlock,” he said.
Abd’Allah, admitted that his team lost to a better side. “I think today, they played well and I think they deserved to win,” said the former Enyimba boss.
Kwara United, sitting in 18th place on the log, will next travel to Jos to face league leaders Plateau United while Wikki Tourists, who currently occupy the 17th position on the log, host Kano Pillars.
KWARA UNITED: Abdullateef Ishola 34, Ganda Samuel 29, Dede Muoghara 24, Magaji Issa 13, Christopher Nwanze 26, Fabian Nworie 15, Abdulsalam Abdulsalam 7 (SUBS 7′), Sikiru Kamaldeen 12, Otegbeye Ajibola 20 (SUBS 69′), Ufere Chinedu 6, Agboola Joshua 8 (SUBS 64′)
SUBS: Iwu Emmanuel 35, Adah Stephen 25 (SUBS 64′), Onigbari Akeem 4, Chinedu Onyelonu 23 (SUBS 69′), Saidu Issa 17 (SUBS 7′), Ajibola Oyeleke 18, Omolayo Ibrahim 5
GOAL(S): Chinedu Ufere 82′
YELLOW CARDS: Christopher Nwanze 56′, Chinedu Ufere 83′, Ganda Samuel 90′
RED CARDS: NIL
WIKKI TOURISTS: Ibrahim Pius 30, Hassan Musa 26, Olayinka Oladapo 2, Tchato Giscard 17, Nzekwesi Arinze 32, Hassan Abubakar 5, Victor Alegbe 21 (SUBS 89′), Sadiq Sulaiman 16, Mansoor S. Aliyu 25, Naseer Jibrin 11, Promise Damala 33 (SUBS 80′).
SUBS: Chinedu Anthony 1, Ambrose Peter 6, Waziri Christopher 3, Manji William 31 (SUBS 89′), Freedom Omofoman 19 (SUBS 80′) Metu Chigozirim 15, Damien Kapko 29
YELLOW CARDS: Sadiq Suleiman 43′
RED CARDS: NIL
Kwara United 1-0 Wikki
Shots on: 10-1
Shots off: 7-4
Throw in: 22-30
Yellow cards: 3-1
Red Cards: 0-0