- Published on Sunday, 27 August 2017 19:58
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By Fisayo Dairo
MFM FC coach Fidelis Ilechukwu insists the title race is still wide open after his side succumbed to a 0-1 loss at Abia Warriors in their penultimate away game of the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Midfielder Arinze Nwangwu ghosted behind the defence to head home Sherif Bashir's free kick with 23 minutes left at the Umuahia Township Stadium as he thrusted a further spear into MFM's waning title aspirations.
"It (the title) is still open. If it is not, I would have been calling Kennedy Boboye (Plateau coach) by now to congratulate him," Ikechukwu told www.npfl.ng after Sunday's game.
The Matchday 36 encounter played in difficult circumstances after a torrential downpour had rendered the surface wet and slippery was a big test for MFM's adaptability and they looked to cope for longer periods before Nwangwu's 67th minute goal.
Abia Warriors' Ndifreke Effiong missed virtually the only chance created by either side in the first half when he headed over from a Chinedu Ozor cross. The hosts were dealt a blow when winger Anthony Okemmiri limped off after 18 minutes on the clock but his replacement Sherif Bashir proved crucial in the game's defining moment.
Reduced to hopeful long range efforts, it was only befitting that the game's only goal would come from a dead ball situation as it proved to be the only outlet which both teams looked to exploit on resumption of play for the second half.
MFM's Waheed Adebayo had his own 25-yard free kick gathered by Abia goalkeeper Anozie while Bashir's from 20-yard was easily handled by MFM keeper Egbe Ospino, all in the first twenty minutes of the second half.
Abdullahi Usman-Biffo's Warriors upped the ante midway through the second half and got a just reward for their toils. Bashir was tripped by MFM right back Stanley Okorom and the former Bayelsa United winger picked himself up to float an incisive ball into the area. Arinze Agbalokwu Nwangwu somehow managed to move behind the jam-packed bodies to head home from eight yards.
The visitors gave a half-hearted fight back after going behind but did not really look like drawing level perhaps with Anozie denying Sikiru Olatunbosun earlier in the half their best chance of the game.
With leaders Plateau United unexpectedly drawing at home to Rivers United, MFM stay 4 points behind in second place with 59 points. Sunday's result will further ease Warriors' relegation worries as they move to 10th on the log with 50 points, three clear of the relegation zone.
Abia Warriors: 22. Chinedu Anozie 5. Chinedu Ozor 32. Goodluck Ozioma 29. Arinze Nwangwu 16. Austin Obaroakpo 6. Abiodun Adebayo 34. Anthony Okemmiri (Sherif Bashir 19') 1. Ndifreke Effiong 20. Chinenye Agoha (Emeka Isaac 86') 31. Shedrack Asiegbu 21. Samson Obi (Moses Omodumuoke 52')
Unused Subs: 33. Moses Ocheje 13. Yakubu Hammed 14. Ogbonnaya Okemmiri 30. Chinedu Efugh
BOOKED: Arinze Nwangwu 41' Ndifreke Effiong 90'
GOAL: Arinze Nwangwu 67'
MFM FC: 33.Egbe Ospino 34.Zikiye Jonathan 28.Okorom Stanley 30.Opara Austine 5.Abisoye Olawale 6.Tchato Giscard 15.Atu Irumekhai Paul 10.Onuwa Chukwuka (Chijioke Akuneto 68') 29.Adebayo Waheed 31. Stephen Odey (Kenedium Nelson 77') 2. Olatunbosun Sikiru (Nojeem Akinyemi 60')
Unused Subs: 32.Nasamu Emmanuel 27.Elom Kenneth 22.Adegboye Adekunle 17.Abdullahi Sulaiman
BOOKED: Olawale Abisoye 47' Stanley Okorom 60'
Referee: Anietie Ferdinand Udoh
Man of the match: Arinze Nwangwu (Abia Warriors)
Abia Warriors 1-0 MFM FC
Shots (On target): 8(4)-5(2)
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