If football results were drawn from second half performances only, Shooting Stars of Ibadan would have left the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo with something to cheer about but two first half defensive gaffes left them empty-handed in their last fixture before the mid-season break.
According to a report in npfl.ng, Akwa United’s first half dominance and goals by Friday Ubong and Cyril Olisema were enough to secure a 2-0 win that leaves the Oluoye Warriors deep in the relegation mire as the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) embarks on a three week break.
Given that this league fixture rarely produced a stalemate, it was not totally surprising that the hosts had it going their way but perhaps results could have been different had the visitors not waited till late in the game to wake up. The first sign of danger came as early as the 4th minute when Olisema teed up Ubong Ekpai but the striker fired narrowly wide. Cyril Olisema would try an overhead kick moments later but it flew wide and off the target.
The opener soon arrived, in the 8th minute when Ubong Ekpai chasing a lost cause of a ball, outwitted his marker, advanced into the area and rolled the ball toward Friday Ubong at the back post. Ubong converted with the simplest of finishes. Ekpai’s brilliance might have created the goal but the visiting defenders were in sixes and sevens. Tope Orelope attempted an immediate response but his strike from range was wayward.
Perhaps the visitors were affording Ubong Ekpai too much space and respect and before long, the winger came close yet again, he tested Emmanuel Fabiyi from range but the away goalkeeper pushed the effort away. Moments afterward, he nicely made room for himself, took aim but fired wide. And when he was not having a go himself, he was assisting. He teed up Friday Ubong but the goalscorer blasted over.
A second goal was coming and it duly arrived in the 32nd minute. Suraj Sodiq was disposed outside the Shooting Stars area by Cyril Olisema and the Akwa United number 26 bore down on goal and passed beyond Fabiyi to double for Akwa United. Cruel on the visitors who looked like they were growing into the game from their recent efforts. Just before the interval, both goalkeepers were called into action. Friday Ubong forced the overworked Fabiyi to save with his legs while Bassey Akpan made a similar save off Kabiru Umar’s strike.
The chances resumed from where they stopped in the first half and so were the misses. With Shooting Stars looking better, Najeem Olukokun fired wide seconds after Franklyn Ekong had missed an open goal. Ubong Ekpai hit his strike wide in the 58th minute before Kabiru Umar flashed an effort wide from one of Suraj Sodiq’s trademark long throw-ins. Akwa United missed yet another chance in the 69th minute; when Friday Ubong, after Ekpai’s good ball sailed across goal, blasted over.
The visitors sought to salvage something from the game with a late rally and should have pulled one back from a dangerous Cletus Itodo effort but Bassey Akpan pushed wide. Tope Orelope was next to miss, firing wide his 82nd minute effort. With five minutes to go, Ajani Ibrahim escaped into the area from the right and lobbed over the onrushing Akpan but Godspower Igudia cleared.