- Published on Sunday, 03 September 2017 21:46
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By Kanayo Jubal
Anthony Okpotu’s 56th minute strike was all it took for Lobi Stars to break a determined Niger Tornadoes in their Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Matchday 37 encounter at the Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi, on Sunday evening.
Okpotu is now on same number of goals, 18, with Stephen Odey. The two men are now joint leading scorers in the league.
Both sides began cautiously, with the home side, attempting to gauge their opponents with some accurate marking and possession-laden football, but, even at that, the visitors, who went about their game, content with repelling every attack thrown at them, would yield no inch.
In the 11th minute, Sunday Akleche nearly punished Tornadoes, after Lukas Yahaya had directed his nod at his skipper and keeper, Aliko Mustapha, but for Aliko’s quick reflexes and outstretched arms.
Two minutes later, Okpotu shimmied past two of his markers and directed his shot with his inner feet. He watched with a baying crowd as the ball rolled swiftly, a few inches away from its mark.
In the 20th minute, Ebube Duru steam-rolled from the centre of the pitch and fired a shot which was parried by the agile Aliko into the path of on-rushing danger man, Eduwo Kinglsey, whose shot was also deflected off the goalie’s outstretched hands.
In the 30th minute, Eduwo worked his way to the edge of the visitors’ box and would not let go off the ball. He chipped it past Aliko, but Akleche and Okpotu who came sliding in, all missed the opportunity to put Lobi in the driving seat.
Torndoes would not give in, inspite of the many onslaughts, however, as Sunday Akinmoladun and Hussaini Isah and Lukas Yahaya continued to build their fences higher and more sturdy.
In the 41st minute, Bunde Moses floated in his cross from the far right, with Eduwo, who jumped highest to meet it, missing his mark again, to the frustration of the fans.
A minute later, man of the match, Eduwo, was at it again, as a loose ball fell to him and, after gauging his mark, let off a fierce shot but it was off target.
Four minutes after, Eduwo again, fresh from his time with the CHAN Eagles, beat two defenders neatly and laid the ball on for the ready Ezekiel Mbah, who blew it sky high, attracting loud complaints from the home fans.
The pressure finally paid off, when in the 56th minute, Okpotu walked up to convert from the spot and send home his 18th strike of the season, after the referee adjudged a Tornadoes’ defender to have handled the ball inside the 18-yard box.
The win sees Tornadoes’ goal of finishing in the top-10 take a hit, while Lobi, who would be confronting FC Ifeanyiubah in Nnewi on the final day of the season, would be ruing their inability to wake up earlier.
Tornadoes would welcome Shooting Stars on the final day in Lokoja, where they will hope to pick the three points on offer.
Lobi Stars: John Lawrence 16; Bunde Moses 2 (c), Ebube Duru 40, Ayagwa Raphael 13, Bright Akpojuvwewo 26, Nya Dennis 6, Akleche Sunday 7, Okpotu Anthony 11, Eduwo Kingsley 9, Tyavkase David 10, Mbah Ezekiel 12
Substitutes: Okiemute Odah 30; Ikeleji Bello 27, Otekpa Eneji 21, Itodo Cletus 8, Sunday Emmanuel 19, Uchenna Eze 15, Akor Isah Umoru 33
Niger Tornadoes: 30 Mustapha Aliko (c); 31 Lukas Yahaya, 34 Hussaini Isah, 21 Andrew Ikefe Evans, 5 Sunday Akinmoladun, 14 Rueben Ogbonnaya, 17 Babawo Ibrahim, 8 Bolaji Adeyemo, 4 Ebenezer Odeyemi, 33 Wakili Abdullahi, 22 Wilfred Angel Ammeh
Substitutes: 1 Terka Melai; 38 Bashar Usman, 28 Ikhide Ibrahim, 15 Peter Momoh, 32 Sani Rabiu, 24 Yakubu Auta, 16 Abdulateef Adeshina
Lobi Stars: Isah Akor Umar for David Tyavkase (81'), Itodo Cletus for Kingsley Eduwo (87'), Uchenna Eze for Sunday Akleche (90+1')
Niger Tornadoes: Bashar Ibrahim for Babawo Ibrahim (50'), Peter Momoh for Andrew Ikefe (58'), Sani Rabiu for Ebenezer Odeyemi (79')
Substitutes not used
Lobi Stars: Okiemute Odah 30; Ikeleji Bello 27, Otekpa Eneji 21, Sunday Emmanuel 19
Niger Tornadoes: 1 Terka Melai; 28 Ikhide Ibrahim, 24 Yakubu Auta, 16 Abdulateef Adeshina
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