Akwa United continued their impressive run of form on Match-day 18 of the Nigeria Professional Football League with a resounding 3-0 victory over Lobi Stars of Makrudi to extend their unbeaten run to seven matches.
Three first half goals, two by Mfon Udoh and one by Ikechukwu Nwani capped a superlative performance by Coach Kennedy Boboye’s team and helped them secure their 9th victory of the season – their seventh win in nine home games.
Akwa United went into the game on the heels of six unbeaten games, which include their second away win of the season against MFM in Lagos.
Coach Boboye made just one change to the starting team that won in Lagos last weekend, with mid-season signing, Nasiru Jibril making his debut. He started in place of assistant captain, Ubong Friday, who was not listed for the game.
Both sides started brightly but it was Lobi Stars who had the first attempt at goal when Ossy Martins’ long range strike rattled the crossbar few minutes into the game.
The home side quickly got themselves into the game and took control of proceedings with some fast attacking play.
Their efforts paid off in the 17th minute when Nasiru Jibril freed centre-back Sampson Gbadebo down the right channel. The defender made his way through the defense before sending a beautiful low cross into the box for Ikechukwu Nwani to tap home from close range.
Coach Boboye’s men continues to dominate and doubled their advantage six minutes later through striker Mfon Udoh, who fired a left-footed strike beyond Aliko Mustapha in Lobi Stars’ goal after an intelligent first-time play by Ndifreke Effiong.
Moments later, enterprising Seth Mayi sent a delightful long ball forward to Ndifreke Effiong, who played it first time to Ikechukwu Nwani. Nwani took much time to sort himself out, only to be bundled to the ground in the box by goalkeeper Aliko Mustapha but the referee waved play on.
United kept creating and missing good goal scoring chances. In the 31st minute, Ikechukwu Nwani thought he had scored his second of the game after Seth Mayi located him with a wonderful cut-back but the striker blasted his effort high over the bar.
The Promise Keepers’ persistent pressure paid off again deep into first half stoppage time. Goalkeeper Adewale Adeyinka sent a long ball into the opponent’s half of the pitch that saw Ndifreke Effiong rise highest to direct a header towards Ikechukwu Nwani.
The striker composed himself and teed up Mfon Udoh who timed his run to perfection to slot it beyond Aliko Mustapha for his second goal of the game and his sixth of the season, just before referee Kazim Abdulsalam brought the relatively one-sided first half to a close.
Lobi Stars stepped up their game after the restart and had a good opportunity to reduce the deficit when Ossy Martins was put through in a one-on-one situation but goalkeeper Adewale Adeyinka was quick to come off his line to make a fantastic save.
In the 58th minute, Ndifreke Effiong thought he had increased his team’s lead when he headed Mfon Udoh’s curling delivery from a corner towards the top right corner but Aliko Mustapha guessed right to save it from going in.
Sustained moment of pressure saw Lobi Stars goalkeeper Aliko Mustapha make two brilliant saves in a space of five minutes. First, Seth Mayi cut through the middle and beautifully exchanged with Ndifreke Effiong to locate Mfon Udoh but Aliko Mustapha came out of his area to clear it to safety.
Seth Mayi who had a wonderful game, freed Mfon Udoh with a clever pass in the 68th minute, the striker controlled it smartly and fired at goal and his attempt was heading towards the bottom corner but Aliko dived full stretch to save it.
Striker Ndifreke Effiong recieved a good pass from Seth Mayi inside the box in the 71st minute. The striker fired a superb strike at goal that was heading towards the bottom right corner but the ball hit Mfon Udoh who was in front of goal and bounced off.
Towards the end of the game, Coach Boboye withdrew defender Olisa Ndah and striker Ikechukwu Nwani and replaced them with Abass Sadick and mid-season signing, Hamisu Saleh. Moments after coming on, Hamisu Saleh misjudged a long ball into area and Ossy Martins raced towards it but Adewale Adeyinka pulled a timely save on the edge of the box to keep his eight clean sheets in twelve matches.
With a minute before the end of the match, Abass Sadick missed a clear opportunity to add to his team’s tally after being put through one-on-one with the goalkeeper by Seth Mayi’s clever pass.
The striker while trying to dribble his way into the box, successfully dragged the goalkeeper out of his area and the goalkeeper, in a desperate attempt to make a save, handled the ball outside the box and was rightly sent off. Lobi Stars who had exhausted all their five substitutions called on Osimanga Duke to replaced Aliko Mustapha in goal.
Coach Boboye introduced Dare Ojo and Marshal Johnson in place of Mfon Udoh and Ndifreke Effiong and the duo did just enough to close out the game as Akwa United strolled to their 9th victory of the season and move to 3rd on the NPFL standing with 32 points from 17 matches with one game at hand.
They will next travel to Lagos to honour Match-day 19 fixture against Sunshine Stars who were banished from Akure to Lagos by the league organisers LMC.