CLUB NEWS

Battling Lobi Stars ease past Akwa Utd 2-1

By Francis Achi

Lobi Stars came from a goal down to defeat Akwa United 2-1 in a Matchday 16 encounter of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) at the Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi on Thursday.

The Makurdi club began the game on a shocking note as Akwa United silenced their fans with an early goal scored in the fifth minute from a quick counter-attack. Moses Ebiye got the ball from Christian Pyagbara from the right side and the attacker dribbled into the box, took a powerful low shot with his left foot leaving Okiemute Odah in goal for Lobi Stars with no chance.

Despite the early goal conceded, Lobi Stars were still in control of the game, dictating the midfield through David Tyavkase, who was very creative with the ball, feeding the attacking duo of Nanen Barnabas Imenger and Anthony Okpotu with sublime passes, but nothing of note happened from his inventive play.

What could have been an equalizer for Lobi Stars was also wasted by Nasiru Shehu, whose powerful shot inside the box went over the bar in the 21st minute. It was the turn of Uchenna Eze in the 26th minute as the attacker missed a one-on-one chance with just the Akwa United goalkeeper Emmanuel Iwu to beat.

However, relief came for Lobi Stars when Akleche Sunday was hacked down inside the box and the referee awarded a penalty, which was converted into goal by Dennis Nya in the 31st to restore parity for the home team.

Akwa United coach, Abdu Maikaba, was forced to make an early substitution when he replaced injured Moses Ebiye in 33rd minute for Nura Usman to add potency to the attack, but it remained a ding dong affair as the first half ended 1-1.

The second half began on a more conscious note for both sides, but it was Lobi Stars who continued to dominate the proceeding, creating more chances to score and it eventually paid off in the 57th minute when Anthony Okpotu scored after Emmanuel Iwu made a goalkeeping error in the air and the attacker nodded the ball into the net for the second goal.

With the second goal in their kitty, Lobi Stars were on fire, bombarding the backline of Akwa Utd in rampaging manner, but Emmanuel Iwu was able to ensure that his team did not concede another goal as the game ended 2-1 in favour of Lobi Stars.

Speaking to npfl.ng after the game, Maikaba attributed his team's defeat to lack of concentration. He also blamed the failure of his attackers to convert some of the goalscoring opportunities they had in the game.

"We would have won this game, not even drawing the game, but we lost. We had some moments of loss of concentration. My players were careless and this made the team to lose the game," Maikaba lamented.

Having come back from a goal down twice at the Aper Aku Stadium to win Enyimba of Aba on Matchday 10 and Akwa United on Matchday 16, Lobi Stars coach, Evans Ogenyi believes mental strength has been the driving force behind his team getting the valuable points at stake.

"We had it very difficult after conceding a goal in a momentary loss of concentration, but mental strength on the path of my players gave us victory. The same thing happened when Lobi Stars played against Enyimba. We conceded an early goal, yet the boys won the game," Ogenyi told npfl.ng.

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