- Published on Saturday, 09 September 2017 22:20
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By Fisayo Dairo
Former NPFL champions Enyimba wrapped up the season in their adopted home in Calabar with a comfortable 1-0 win over Katsina United to assure themselves of a place in next year's CAF Confederation Cup.
Striker Stephen Chukwude headed home the game's only goal on 10 minutes but in fairness could have been more, save for Ikechukwu Ibenegbu's romance with the opponents' cross bar in the second half.
The three points were enough to keep Enyimba in third spot ahead of Akwa United whose 3-0 victory over Kano Pillars on Saturday turned out to be pure academical as the Peoples Elephant celebrate a return to continental football.
Enyimba scored with their first attempt on target in a game they dominated from start to finish. Stephen Chukwude won a corner kick off Ikechukwu Nwachukwu in the 9th minute. The former Ifeanyiubah striker was then rightly placed inside the box to power home Stanley Dimgba's inswinging corner.
The hosts continued to dominate proceeding but failed to add to the scoreline in the first half. The 2015 Champions suffered an injury blow when young left back Ikouwem Udoh limped off midway through the first half, his place taken by midfielder Kelly Kester, allowing captain Andrew Abalogu to switch from his right to left back position while Dare Ojo moved to right back.
With news filtering in from Uyo that Enyimba's direct rival for 3rd spot Akwa United were leading at half time against Kano Pillars, Gbenga Ogunbote's men set out in the second half to get an insurance goal but they met a stiff resistance in Katsina goalkeeper Yinka David.
With just two minutes played in the second half, Chinonso Okonkwo and Stephen Chukwude continued their impressive collaboration upfront and the latter almost got his brace after being teed up by the former. David was however on hand to beat out Chukwude's header with a finger tip save.
Moments later, David was on hand again to deny dead ball specialist Ikechukwu Ibenegbu. The former Warri Wolves midfielder had hit a free kick aimed for the top corner but the young goalkeeper managed to get his hand onto it and touched it against the cross bar.
As the game wore on, the visitors, with full knowledge that a loss by slim margin would guarantee their stay in the top flight for another season, regardless of results elsewhere, resorted to gamesmanship, during which goalkeeper David was booked.
Ibenegbu remained the closest Enyimba player to score as David once again saved his free kick after the hour mark before another free kick late in the game came off the cross bar.
Enyimba youngster Maxwell Effiom also looked very lively after coming on as a substitute, going close on two different occasions but ultimately failed to get his efforts on target.
Enyimba could not add to the score but it was not a problem as they saw out the most convincing 1-0 score lines you can get in football.
They will thus represent Nigeria in 2018 CAF Confederation Cup alongside 2017 AITEO Cup winners. Their visitors, Katsina United true to expectation will compete in Nigeria's top flight for a second season running.
ENYIMBA: 1. Theophilus Afelokhai 11. Andrew Abalogu 36. Ikouwem Udoh (Kelly Kester 35') 16. Dare Ojo 5. Ifeanyi Anaemena 25. Uche John 21. Eric Frimpong (Maxwell Effiom 60') 9. Stephen Chukwude (Ibrahim Mustapha 84') 23. Chinonso Okonkwo 15. Ikechukwu Ibenegbu 13. Stanley Dimgba
Unused Subs: 35. Izundu Njoku 18. Ugochukwu Leonard 19. Ibrahim Mustapha 26. Samson Gbadebo 28. Olufemi Oladapo
GOAL: Stephen Chukwude 10'
KATSINA UNITED: 1. Yinka David 12. Kape Frank 6. Nasiru Sani 31. Sani Faisal (Obinna Eleje 63') 5. Timothy Danladi 32. Ikechukwu Nwachukwu 16. Yushau Garba 19. Martins Usule 23. Chinedu Udechukwu 4. Usman Barau 21. Eric Gwammy (Joseph Adah 71')
Subs: 35. Danjuma Paul Dami 9. Ibrahim Suleiman 15. Stephen Adah 17. Joseph Adah 25. Obinna Eleje 29. Kingsley Ajaero
BOOKED: Usman Barau 6' Yinka David 83'
Referee: Olayinka Olajide (Lagos)
Man of the Match: Ikechukwu Ibenegbu (Enyimba)
Enyimba 1-0 Katsina United
Shots (On target): 16 (7)-2 (0)
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