Akwa United picked their first point of the 2018/2019 Nigeria Professional Football League season following a 1-1 draw against Kano Pillars on matchday 3 at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano on Sunday.
Ndifreke Effiong’s low shot from Cyril Olisema’s through ball beat Isah Danladi in Pillars’ goal to put the Promise Keepers in front in the 19th minute. The hosts drew level two minutes before half time through Chris Makadi’s near post header as both teams took a share of the spoils in front of a capacity crowd at the Sani Abacha Stadium.
Akwa United went into the match on the back of their opening day defeat to El-Kanemi Warriors in Uyo and Coach Rafael Everton made five changes to the team that kick started the season in Uyo. Cameroonian goalkeeper Jean Efala, Ivorian defender Blaise Adou, Togolese Left Back Kodjovi Dadzie and youngsters Etboy Akpan and Ubong Essien were handed their first start of the season and they all justified their inclusion with a fantastic team performance.
The hosts were the first to threaten but goalkeeper Efala managed to clear a drop ball after he misjudged the flight of the ball two minutes into the game.
Both teams engaged each other in a midfield battle but it was the Promise Keepers who came out the strongest following Ubong Essien’s brilliant display against a more experienced Kano Pillars’ captain Rabiu Ali.
Akwa United took the lead against the run of play in the 19th minute. A neat interchange between Ubong Essien and Alberico Da Silva freed Cyril Olisema on the left flank. The midfielder picked out Ndifreke Effiong whose low strike was too strong for Danladi in Pillars’ goal.
Coach Everton’s team could have doubled their lead moment later when a long ball dropped for Mfon Udoh but his effort was kept out by the outstretched leg of Pillars’ goalkeeper Danladi.
The Uyo based side were pegged back in the 43rd minute when Chris Madaki headed home from the near post to restore parity for Sai Masu Gida as both sides went into the break on level terms.
The two sides increased the tempo of their play in the second half and pushed for the crucial goal but were unable to convert their many goal scoring chances. The two goalkeepers were in their best of form to keep their teams in the tie. While Pillars’ goalkeeper Isah Danladi was the busiest of the two, Cameroonian Jean Efala made four breathtaking saves to announce his arrival in the team.
Mfon Udoh, Alberico Da Silva and substitute Paul Obata were the major culprits in the second half as they were unable to find the back of the net despite their team’s near perfect performance.
The 1-1 draw is Coach Rafael Everton’s first point of the season and they will next face Plateau United on Wednesday in a Matchday 4 fixture at the Nest of champions in Uyo.