Reigning Nigeria Professional Football League Champions Akwa United saw their 31-league unbeaten home record come to an unexpected end on Sunday when they suffered their biggest home defeat in the 25-year history of the club, losing 0-3 to seven-time champions Enugu Rangers at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo on match-day 18 of the 2021/2022 NPFL season.
The Promise Keepers were made to rue their missed opportunities throughout the game when they conceded three second half goals to surrender all three points to their visitors, which ended their 31-match unbeaten run at the Nest of Champions.
Akwa United began the game on the front foot and could have been ahead inside the opening ten minutes. Speedster Wisdom Fernando thought he had given his side the lead but only saw his effort come off the post. Four minutes later, it was Leo Ezekiel whose shot at goal on the edge of the box narrowly missed the target.
Rangers first real chance at goal came in the 20th minute when Kenechukwu Agu miscued his effort after coming one-on-one with Jean Efala.
In the 23rd minute, Fernando outpaced his markers and tried to lift the ball over the onrushing Rangers goalkeeper Saidu Mutawakilu into the net but the goalkeeper got his fingers to it and tipped the ball out for a corner.
Adam Yakubu picked out Leo Ezekiel and fed him with a defense splitting pass, and from a promising position, the youngster couldn’t get his effort on target.
In the 37th minute, midfielder Austin Osayande floated a beautiful cross into the box, Samson Gbadebo rose the highest but his header sailed over the bar as both sides went into the break on level terms.
Three minutes after the restart, captain Ubong Friday tried his luck from distance, with a ferocious strike from a set-piece after a foul on Wisdom Fernando, but his shot was punched out by Mutawakilu.
Moments later, John Lazarus fed Adam Yakubu with a diagonal pass, the midfielder dribbled his way through a crowded defense but his low drive from inside the box narrowly missed the bottom right-corner.
Samuel Pam opened scoring for Rangers in the 55th minute when he volleyed home a drop ball from outside the box.
Five minutes later, the champions almost responded when Samson Gbadebo’s header from James Ajako’s cross was pushed out by Mutawakilu.
Coach Alli Jolomi introduced Samuel Amadi and Godfrey Utim both players taking the places of Ubong Friday and Adam Yakubu.
But it was Chidiebere Nwobodo who doubled the visitors advantage in the 69th minute, finishing off a smart team move with a great strike.
Coach Jolomi threw Isaac George, Etboy Akpan and Hamza Mubarak into the fray, pulling out Wisdom Fernando, John Lazarus and Austin Osayande. All efforts to get back into the game yielded no result as Godfrey Utim and Issac George couldn’t find a way past the visitors backline.
Deep into stoppage time, Rangers substitute Shedrack Asiegbu benefitted from an Ejike Uzoenyi pass to score their third goal of the game to seal a historic victory for the seven-time champions.
The result handed Akwa United their first home defeat in 32 NPFL matches at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium and the worst home defeat in the club’s history.
The last time Akwa United were beaten at home was a 0-2 loss to Kwara United on 15th January, 2020 in the 2019/2020 season.
The champions remain 6th on the log with 27 points from 18 matches and are eleven points (11) behind leaders Rivers United.
The Promise Keepers will next face table toppers Rivers United on match-day 19 in Port Harcourt on Sunday 20th March, 2022.