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Ten-man Kano Pillars stay strong to outscore Enyimba 3-1

By Onukogu Kanayochuqu Jubal

It was tagged the star game of Match Day 12 in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) and the two sides, Kano Pillars and Enyimba made it a feisty affair at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano that had the stands packed to the brim. At the end of the tough exchanges, it was the host team that claimed all three points thanks to a 3-1 scoreline to the delight of their football-crazy fans.

As the game wore on, exchanges became more cautious, as both sides continued to gauge their defences and make runs at each other, but it was the hosts who took the initiative on 10 minutes, when a loose ball fell to Bala Zakka, but he blasted it too wide and high.

Five minutes later, Pillars’ Rabiu Ali easily beat his marker and shot, but his ground-rolled shot sailed into the hands of Theophilus Afelokhai, as groans resonated through the packed stadium.

On 18 minutes, Rabiu Ali was at it again, as his cross met Zakka on the far edge of Enyimba's box, but Zakka chose to control with his chest. The ball rolled off play as the home fans grumbled more loudly.

Enyimba lurked, until the 21st minute, when Ikechukwu Ibenegbu almost put them ahead. He latched onto Mustapha Ibrahim's cross and the resultant shot missed the top bar of the post by a few inches, to the relief of the home fans.

However, in the 24th minute, the more enterprising hosts nicked in a goal, when Rabiu rolled a free-kick onto the path of the Kabir Balogun, who shot straight at goal, with the ball deflecting past Afelokhai, off the shoulder of Ifeanyi Anaemena.

The hosts continued to surge forward and, on 29 minutes, Amos Gyang belted out a screamer from range and, though it rattled Afelokhai, he got the hang of it.

Enyimba aimed to draw level in the 37th minute, as Ibenegbu and Chukwude’s smart one-two combination move built on, only to fail, as the burly Danladi Isah in Pillars goal parried the ball to safety.

Both sides continued to have a go at each other, but it was Nazifi Yahaya, who came close to doubling his side’s lead. The midfielder, who had shown glimpses of brilliance, came with some determination, as he rushed in to meet Gambo Mohammed's beautiful cross. He connected to it, but missed his target a few inches to the right, to loud moans from the reactive crowd.

In the 58th minute, Ibrahim Mustapha got a through pass, but held onto his ball, despite interest from Udoji, but his blast was parried away to safety by the agile Isah.

Former Enyimba man, Sikiru Kamal's cross found an unmarked Kabir Balogun and, thanks to a careless Enyimba defence, he made no mistake. The unarguable Man of the Match shot on sight, startling the hapless Afelokhai, to make it 2-0 for the hosts.

The hosts were on a roll, pushing their visitors to the limits for a reaction that never came, but on the 69th minute, Chukwude Stephen converted a penalty, after Udoji had handled the ball under pressure from Chukwude. Udoji was sent off, after earning a second yellow card.
The hosts, though reduced to 10 men, held their ground and they remained the better side. In added time, skipper Gambo Mohammed stole behind Enyimba’s lax backline to nick a third for his side.

Line-ups

Kano Pillars: Danladi Isah 31, Bala Zakka 18, Idris Aloma 33, Emmanuel Anyanwu 24, Chinedu Udoji 26, Sikiru Kamalu 12, Kabiru Balogun 7 (Alhassan Ibrahim 75’), Nazifi Yahaya 20 (Adamu 'Drogba' Mohammed 70’), Gambo Muhammad 9, Rabiu Ali 10, Amos Gyang 11 (Joel Djongdang 74’)

Subs: David Obiazo 22, Joel Djongdang 4, Ibrahim Alhassan 35, Bala Yusuf 38, Adamu Mohammed 8, Alimi Jamiu 5, Hamza Abba Tiya 19

Coach: Kadiri Ikhana

Enyimba: Afelokhai Theophilus 1, Dare Ojo 16, Akas Chima 27, Kester Kelley 12, Anaemena Ifeanyi 5, Gbadegbo Samson 26, Mfon Udoh 10 (Osadiaye Joseph 53’), Chukwude Stephen 9, Ibrahim Mustapha 19, Ikechukwu Ibenegbu 15, Dimgba Stanley 13 (Ismail Gata 77’)

Subs: Fatau Dauda 32, Oladuntoye Isiaka 14, Okpako Solomon 4, Andrew Abalogu 11, Olufemi Oladapo 28, Joseph Osadiaye 20, Ismaila Gata 17

Coach: Gbenga Ogunbote

Attendance: 25,620

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