Akwa United top scorer Ndifreke Effiong scored twice against Abia Warriors on matchday 3 to help his team secure their first victory of the 2020/2021 NPFL season at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.
It took Ndifreke just 5 minutes to register his name on the score sheet against his former team, finishing off a brilliant interchange between Olisa Ndah and Seth Mayi following Morice Chukwu’s delightful delivery from a corner kick.
Former Akwa United defender Harrison Ibukun leveled scores for the visitors in the 27th minute, getting at the end of a good cross from a corner kick to smash home on the edge of the box.
Ndifreke who was the club’s top scorer last season with 11 goals, secured the maximum points for his side in the 60th minute after he calmly dispatched a spot kick following a foul on Wisdom Fernando by goalkeeper Vincent Edafe. The goal proved decisive and was enough to hand the Promise Keepers a 2-1 win on Saturday.
Both sides went into the game having scored no goal and without a win in their opening two matches. Akwa United played out a goalless draw with Dakkada before losing 1-0 to Enugu Rangers while Abia Warriors lost to Enyimba 1-0 and Rivers United by the same scoreline.
Coach Kennedy Boboye made two changes to the team that lost in Enugu. Ikechukwu Nwani and Morice Chukwu were given the nod to start ahead of Wisdom Fernando and Sampson Gbadebo.
Akwa United enterprising start to the game paid off in the 5th minute when Ndifreke opened his goal account for the season and his team’s first in the 2020/2021 campaign.
The visitors failed to clear their lines following a dangerous delivery from a free-kick by Morice Chukwu. Olisa Ndah picked up a loose ball and located Okafor who dropped it for Ndifreke to slot home from close range.
Moments later, Ndifreke thought he had doubled his team’s advantage only to see his thunderous strike crash aginst the crossbar with the goalkeeper well beaten.
Akwa United were forced into making an early substitution. Defender Olisa Ndah was replaced by Sampson Gbadebo after the former sustained an injury following a hard tackle on him.
Coach Boboye’s men continued to threaten, creating good chances but it was the visitors who restored parity in the 27th minute.
Goalkeeper Jean Efala had parried Nzube Anaezemba’s low shot out for a corner and from the resultant corner, former Akwa United defender Harrison Ibukun smashed home the equalizer from the edge of the box as both sides went into the break on level terms.
Coach Boboye introduced Ubong Friday and Wisdom Fernando into the game at the start of the season half. The home side continued their impressive display and created a plethora of chances but failed to convert them.
Substitute Fernando interchanged with Nwani in the 53rd minute to locate Ndifreke but the striker couldn’t direct his effort at goal.
Moments later, Mayi freed Fernando with a defense splitting pass and the speedy winger rounded goalkeeper Edafe but was brought down in the box and the referee rightly awarded penalty to Akwa Utd.
Ndifreke took the responsibility against Edafe and scored splendidly to restore his team’s lead in the 59th minute.
The lead could have been increased six minutes later when Nwani combined brilliantly with Ndifreke on the break, but the former was denied by the crossbar.
Ndifreke was presented a golden opportunity to complete his hat-trick when goalkeeper Vincent Edafe and Ogar David ran into each other on the edge of the box and the ball fell to Ndifreke whose low drive flashed across the face of goal and went wide from a tight angle.
Abia Warriors’s best chance in the second half came in the closing stages of the game but goalkeeper Jean Efala stood his ground to tip Dennis Kingsley’s effort against the post before Charles Okafor cleared the rebound to safety as the Promise Keepers closed out the game with their first maximum points of the season.
The victory means the Promise Keepers have 4 points from a possible 9 and are 5th on the log. They will next play Kwara United in Ilorin on Match-day 4 in mid-week.