Akwa United made a sensational return to the top of the NPFL Group B table following a resounding 2-0 victory over relegation-threatened Gombe United in Uyo on Sunday.
Two second half goals by Cyril Olisema and Wisdom Fernando secured the vital win for the Promise keepers who leapfrog FC Ifeanyi Ubah and El-Kanemi Warriors to the top of the log on superior goal difference.
The visitors who could only manage three shots at goal throughout the match were on the back foot for a greater part of the game and were unable to cope with the dominant display of the home side.
Akwa United were three points behind leaders El-Kanemi Warriors before the start of the game and needed to respond after their last week’s defeat. And they bounced back nicely with their seventh win of the season.
Coach Rafael Everton made six changes to the team that lost in Maiduguri on Matchday 13. Denis Nya, Juwon Oshaniwa, Blaise Adou, Christopher Lolo, Chigozie Chilekwu and Cyril Olisema all returned to the starting line up.
They took the game to their opponents from the kickoff but couldn’t find a way past Daniel Emmanuel who had a brilliant first half.
The Promise Keepers were forced into making an early substitution following a leg injury to defender Juwon Oshaniwa. He was replaced by Togolese Kodjovi Dadzie inside the opening ten minutes of the game.
The home side created decent chances but failed to convert them. Aniefiok Godspower, Cyril Olisema and Chigozie Chilekwu all came close to breaking the deadlock but saw their attempts kept at bay by a stingy Gombe defence line as the first half ended goalless.
Coach Everton introduced youngster Wisdom Fernando early into the second stanza replacing Christopher Lolo as the home side piled more pressure on the visitors’ backline.
Akwa United had a good opportunity of taking the lead but Daniel Emmanuel produced a superb one-handed save to push away Ndifreke Effiong’s low shot after a fine delivery by Aniefiok Godspower. Moments later, the home fans were nearly celebrating but Emmanuel Charles’ thumping header was spectacularly saved by goalkeeper Daniel Emmanuel.
In a tactical switch, Paul Obata replaced Chigozie Chilekwu, and switch paid off in the 74th minute when midfielder Cyril Olisema was brought down in the box following a dangerous tackle on him from behind. The referee rightly pointed to the spot.
Olisema – who captained the team on the day, picked himself up and tucked it in from six yards. Daniel Emmanuel managed to get his hands to the ball but could not stop Olisema from scoring his second goal of the season.
Akwa United needed an insurance goal to kill off the game but were denied severally. Etboy Akpan’s long range shot was tipped over the bar by impressive Emmanuel in Gombe United’s goal, and Ndifreke Effiong and Aniefiok Godspower who had an excellent game were also denied from increasing their team’s advantage.
But there was something special to come in stoppage time. Substitute Wisdom Fernando who was a handful for the visitors since his introduction, capped his wonderful performance with a delightful solo goal after receiving a sumptuous pass from Aniefiok Godspower from the half way line.
The diminutive winger comfortably dazzled his way past four Gombe United defenders before calmly releasing a low drive beyond Daniel Emmanuel to double his team’s advantage and sent the fans into cloud nine with his second goal of the campaign.
The victory moves Akwa United back to the top of NPFL Group B table with 25 points, same as El-Kanemi Warriors but the Uyo based side stay top courtesy of superior goal difference; (+7).
In his reaction after the match, Coach Rafael Everton said his team had a good game.
“It was a good match for us today, our intention was to play well and keep possession. We dominated and forced our opponents into their own half of the field and it worked for us because they didn’t have much room to attack us, they had very few chances.
“When we didn’t score in first half, I told the boys to be calm and concentrate. We got the goals as a result of hard work and tactical movement, so we are happy with this result. We have gotten 4 points from Gombe United and that has really helped us to be where we are now on the log”.
Akwa United will next entertain Kano Pillars in another home game at the Nest of champions next weekend.