Akwa United intensified their quest for a maiden NPFL title with an emphatic 2-0 victory over Niger Tornadoes on Matchday 24 at the Godswill Akpabio international stadium.
Winger Paul Obata and defender Gabriel Wassa scored either side of the break to ensure the Promise Keepers record their 10th win in 12 home games this season and move from 4th position to 2nd spot on the log.
Coach Abdu Maikaba maintained the same squad that defeated Enyimba in midweek with 17 year old midfielder Ubong Essien making his second league appearance.
The home side announced their intentions as early as the second minute when Micheal Ibe’s pass freed Ifeanyi Ede on the right flank. Aniekeme Asuquo’s glancing header from the the striker’s cross went inches over the crossbar.
Moments later, goalkeeper Mustapha Aliko was called into action when he saved Ibe’s attempt and Essien couldn’t direct his follow-up effort on target.
The Promise Keepers’ dominance and brilliant play paid off in the 19th minute when lively Gabriel Wassa and Aniekeme Asuquo combined neatly to deliver a delightful cross into the visitor’s box. The defenders failed to clear the ball and it fell on the path of Obata who calmly slotted it beyond Aliko to give United the lead.
Akwa United gained huge momentum after taking the lead and surged forward to double their lead. A clever interchange between Kester and Essien dropped for Obata who located Ibe on the edge of the box. The midfielder fired a low drive past Aliko but the attempt was cleared off the line by Iko James as the home side went into the break with a deserved lead.
The Promise Keepers doubled their advantage 30 seconds after the restart through defender Gabriel Wassa who received a long ball and with a delightful touch lobbed it over Aliko into the back of the net.
Just when it appeared the home side had settled into the game, the visitors looked to craft a response and did come close through Yahaya Yusuf whose long range effort was parried away by Ojo Olorunleke and another chance minutes later was cleared off the line by Ariwachukwu Emmanuel after Olorunleke was clearly beaten.
At the other end, Kester teed up Wassa on the left-hand side and the defender’s sumptuous cross fell on the path of Barnabas Imenger whose tame effort was blocked by Aliko.
The away side were awarded a questionable penalty after Gabriel Wassa was adjuded to have handled the ball in the box. Andrew Ikefe stepped up but was excellently denied by Ojo Olorunleke.
The Uyo based side had many chances to extend their lead but were unable to put them away. Notable among such opportunities were
Denis Nya’s long range shot which forced Aliko into a double save and Kelly Kester’s volley that went off target.
With the game coasting home, Akwa United had a strong penalty appeal waved away by the referee after Ezekiel Bassey dribbled his way into the box but was brought down just before he could pull the trigger.
Sunday’s victory for the Promise Keepers was their fourth straight win over Tornadoes and their first home and away win over an NPFL side this season. The victory also stretched the team’s un-beaten home run to 31 matches. Coach Abdu Maikaba’s team will next engage Yobe Dersert Stars this weekend in Damaturu.