Akwa United ended their 2018/2019 Nigeria Professional Football League regular season on top of Group B log despite 2-1 defeat to FC Ifeanyi Ubah in Nnewi in the last game of the campaign.
A goal in each half by Alaekwe Chijioke and Nnaji Christian helped FC Ifeanyi Ubah to a 2-1 victory over Akwa United as they booked their play-off spot on the last day of the season.
The Promise Keepers, alongside FC Ifeanyi Ubah and Kano Pillars have all qualified from Group B for the season ending Super-six play-offs scheduled for next month.
Akwa United went into the game on 38 points from 21 matches having already secured their place in the play-offs, but they were able to take the game to their host from the blast of the referee’s whistle.
Coach Rafael Everton gave Captain Otobong Effiong his first start of the season while youngster Samuel Akpan, defender Ibrahim Akide and goalkeeper Daniel Emmanson all made their debut in a game that meant little or nothing for Akwa United.
The much anticipated game began with the Promise Keepers pushing their hosts back and the first real chance went the way of Ocheme Edoh but his long range strike sailed over the bar.
Barnabas Imenger and Ocheme Edoh’s paring in attack looked lively as both players combined nicely but Edoh’s strike ran across the face of goal without any of his teammates to benefit from it.
The home team had their first attempt at goal in the 18th minute when Ebetomame Tega’s free-kick outside the area hit the post with goalkeeper Emmanuel Iwu well beaten but Godspower Igudia recovered faster to clear the danger.
On the half hour mark, Barnabas Imenger dispossed his marker and freed Paul Obata with a through pass but
goalkeeper Uzoigwe Sharp rushed out of his line to make a fantastic save to deny the winger.
In a swift counter attack, the host took the lead through Alaekwe Chijioke who pounced on a rebound after goalkeeper Emmanuel Iwu had save the initial effort.
In an effort to get back on level terms, the Promise Keepers pushed back and thought they had equalised when Paul Obata fired Barnabas Imenger’s pass into the roof of the net but the assistant referee’s flag was up against him as the first half ended in favour of the home side.
Few minutes after the restart, coach Rafael Everton in a tactical switch introduced league top scorer Mfon Udoh and Alberico Da Silva into the game in replacing Emeka Atuloma and Daniel Ekpo. The new entrants added bit to their team’s attack. Majority of Akwa United’s chances in the second half went the way of top scorer Mfon Udoh but he was unable to put them away.
The heavy downpour at the Ifeanyi Ubah Stadium in Nnewi made the pitch almost unplayable but the home side capitalised on the slippery surface and doubled their advantage with ten minutes to the end of the game when Nnaji Christian scored for his side.
The Promise Keepers pulled a goal back in the 85th minute through striker Ocheme Edoh who rounded the goalkeeper to score his second league goal of the season and his third in all competitions.
When the referee sounded the final whistle, there was a huge relief at the Ifeanyi Ubah Stadium as the result was good enough for them to secure their place in the season ending play-offs.