Ten Man Akwa United slipped from 1st to 3rd place on the Nigeria Professional Football League Group B table following a 4-1 defeat to El-Kanemi Warriors in Maiduguri on Sunday.
Kabir Balogun put the hosts ahead in the 32nd minute with a low free kick. Sani Ababni doubled El-Kanemi’s advantage in the 69th minute before Aniefiok Godspower pulled one back for the Promise Keepers. Sunday Anthony scored the home side’s third goal in the 82nd minute before Bello Kofarmata put the game beyond the visitors in stoppage time from the penalty spot after defender Wilson Elu was sent off for a second bookable offense.
The result moved El-kanemi Warriors to the top of the log with 25 points from 13 games as they record their first ever home and away victory over Akwa United who stay 3rd with 22 points from the same number of games.
The Promise Keepers went into the game on the back of eight unbeaten games and were hoping to extend their impressive run in Maiduguri but were pegged back in a disappointing way.
Super Eagles Forward Ndifreke Effiong and U-23 youngster Etboy Akpan were named in the starting line up but defender Denis Nya was not in action due to illness.
The home side pushed for an early breakthrough Anthony Sunday and Kabir Balogun but they kept at bay with some brilliant defending by Godspower Igudia and Jean Efala. Top striker Mfon Udoh forced Itodo Akor into making a poor clearance towards Alberico Da Silva but the midfielder was fouled before he could pull the trigger.
Akwa United thought they were in front in the 19th minute when Mfon Udoh headed home Etboy Akpan’s inch-perfect cross from the right flank but his effort was ruled offside.
The home side took the lead in the 32nd minute when Kabir Balogun’s low free kick found its way through a crowded defense and went straight into the back of the net.
Akwa United had a good opportunity to level scores few minutes later. Mfon Udo lopped Marshal Johnson’s long ball over onrushing Itodo Akor only for Erimuya Lucky to recover on time to clear the danger on the goal line.
The visitor’s effort in the 37th minute nearly paid off but El-kanemi’s goalkeeper Akor produced a brilliant performance to tip Alberico Da Silva’s deflected free kick over the bar. Akwa United goalkeeper Jean Efala made a fantastic save with his left foot to deny his compatriot Pace Tchoanpine on the stroke of half time.
United’s persistent attack put the hosts on the back foot and in the 63rd minute, Ndifreke Effiong freed Mfon Udoh in a one-on-one situation with Akor. The striker was hacked down from behind but the referee surprisingly waved play on. In a rare counter attack, the host doubled their lead through Sani Ababni who tucked in a low cross from the right.
Midfielder Chigozie Chilekwu replaced injured Mfon Udoh and made immediate impact when he lay for Aniefiok Godspower inside the area. The midfielder released a fierce shot to pull one back for his side with 22 minutes to the end of the game.
But it was the hosts that increased their advantage through Sunday Anthony who benefitted from a defensive mix up to score his team’s third goal of the game.
Akwa United defender Wilson Elu was sent off in the closing stages of the game for a second bookable offense after the referee adjudged he had handled the ball outside the box. However, there was still time for a late drama as El-kanemi Warriors were awarded a penalty in stoppage time. Substitute Bello Kofarmata converted it smartly to give his team a 4-1 victory and condemned the Uyo based side to their third defeat of the 2018/2019 NPFL season.
The Promise Keepers will play two home games against Gombe United and Kano Pillars on Matchday 14 and 15 respectively at the Nest of champions.