Akwa United’s quest to secure a play-off spot in the 2022-23 Nigeria Premier Football League season received a major boost on Matchday 10 as goals by captain Ubong Friday and defender Taiye Muritala earned them an emphatic 2-0 victory over Shooting Stars in Uyo on Sunday.
The victory propelled the Promise Keepers to second position on the log with 18 points, having recorded five wins, three draws and two loses in the ten games played so far this season.
Matchday 10 fixture between Akwa United and Shooting Stars was the second installment of their meeting having played out a 2-2 draw in the first leg in Ibadan on Matchday 9.
Coach Ayodeji Ayeni handed center-back Wisdom Ndon his NPFL debut after he was signed from NNL side Ibom Youth FC. Ndon partnered former Shooting Stars defender Abbey Benson who also made his first start for the Promise Keepers since joining at the start of the season. Mid-season signing Sadeeq Yusuf was named in the starting eleven as well.
After a cautious start to the game, Akwa United had three chances to open scoring midway into the game but Ubong Friday, Uche Collins and Sadeeq Yusuf all saw their efforts either saved by the goalkeeper Okiemute Odah or blocked by the defenders. At the other end, goalkeeper Jean Efala had little or nothing to do as both teams ended the first-half on level terms.
Coach Ayodeji Ayeni’s half-time team talk boosted the morale of his players. Eight minutes after the restart, captain Ubong Friday fired his team into the lead after receiving a good pass from Cyril Olisema who cleverly dribbled his way through the visitors backline.
With the celebrations still in full swing, left-back James Ajako went on a solo run and cut through Shooting Stars midfield, before sending a through pass to right-back Taiye Muritala whose ferocious shot flew past goalkeeper Okiemute Odah to double his team lead in the 55th minute.
Coach Ayeni introduced Wisdom Fernando, Azeez Olamilekan, Liman Ahmadu and Kehinde Olajuyin replacing Sadeeq Yusuf, Uche Collins, Ubong Friday and Salomon Chigoziem towards the end of the game. Although they couldn’t add to the scoreline, they were able to protect their two goals advantage till the end and secure all three points.
Reacting to his team’s victory, coach Ayeni said he was impressed with the performance of his players and stressed that his target is to secure a play-off spot in Group A.
“I’m excited that we were able to win the game. It was a tough game and we studied our opponents in the first-half and capitalized on their weaknesses in the second-half. It was a good outing for us, and we hope to improve on our performance in every game until we achieve our target which is to qualify for the Super-Six playoffs”.
Akwa United will next take on Group A league leaders Bendel Insurance in Benin on Matchday 11 on Wednesday March 29, 2023.