Nigeria Professional Football League highflyers Akwa United remain 3rd on the Group B table after being held to a 2-2 draw by Gombe United in a rescheduled Matchday 2 fixture at the Pantami Stadium in Gombe on Sunday.
Musa Usman’s deflected shot in the 26th minute put the hosts in front. Substitute Emmanuel Charles headed in the equalizer in the 78th minute and Mfon Udoh’s volley in the 84th minute gave the Promise Keepers the lead before a last gasp penalty by Musa Usman settle the scores at 2-2.
The 2-2 draw with Gombe United was Akwa United’s sixth game without defeat and they are just two points behind joint leaders FC IfeanyiUbah and El-Kanemi Warriors who are both on 18 points.
Coach Rafael Everton made three changes to the team that beat FC Ifeanyi Ubah last time out. Etboy Akpan, Kodjovi Dadzie and Ocheme Edoh replaced Etim Mathew, Juwon Oshaniwa and Ubong Friday in the starting line up.
The hosts had their first attempt at goal in the 4th minute following a counter attack but Wilson Elu recovered well to clear the danger. In the 10th minute, Cyril Olisema and Ndifreke Effiong freed Mfon Udoh but the goalkeeper Adewale Adeyinka was quick to make a save. Moment later, Jean Efala superbly tipped Musa Usman’s effort over the bar.
The Promise Keepers were forced into making an early substitution following injury to midfielder Cyril Olisema. He was replaced by Emmanuel Charles who was making his NPFL debut. Gombe United took the lead in the 26th minute through Musa Usman whose deflected shot deceived Efala and went in through the bottom left corner.
Coach Rafael Everton’s team should have levelled the scores two minutes after the hosts had taken the lead. Mfon Udoh’s defense splitting pass dropped for Ocheme Edoh in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper but his effort agonisingly missed the target.
Persistent pressure from the visitors forced Adeyinka in Gombe United’s goal to make a poor clearance onto the path of Alberico Da Silva only for the midfielder to send his effort wide with the goal at his mercy.
Akwa United increased the tempo and made three great attempts shortly after the restart. Mfon Udoh was unlucky not to score in the 47th minute after dribbling through Gombe United backline only for his effort to kiss the post on its way out for a goal kick. Adeyinka then parried Kodjovi Dadzie’s long range shot out for a corner and in the 60th minute he made another excellent save to deny Ndifreke Effiong.
The Uyo based side got the deserved equalizer in the 78th minute when substitute Emmanuel Charles headed in Mfon Udoh’s sumptuous cross from the right flank for his first NPFL goal.
Six minutes later Charles returned the favour and released Mfon Udoh with a delectable pass and the top scorer volleyed it home brilliantly to put his side in front. The home side were awarded a penalty in stoppage time when Denis Nya handled the ball in the box. Musa Usman calmly converted from the spot for his second of the game and rescued a point for his side in a game that was largely dominated by the Promise Keepers. With the result, Akwa United extend their unbeaten run against Gombe United to three games.
Despite the draw, Akwa United remain 3rd on the NPFL (Group B) log with 16 points from 10 games while Gombe Utd remain 11th in the twelve-team log. The Uyo based side will next face Heartland FC in another away trip.