Zachary Baraje’s return to his old stomping ground was one to forget as Ubong Friday’s brace inspired Akwa United to a 2-0 win over his new Plateau United team on Friday evening.
In the Nigeri Professional Football League’s first Friday Night Football game at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, the winger scored a goal in each half to ensure the visitors are now without a win in three games while Akwa United climb into the top half of the league table.
Despite making as many as five changes to their last weekend’s line-up, it was Akwa United who began the game the more composed side. They set off like a team in hurry, intent with purpose from the early running and Michael Okoro should have put the Promise Keepers ahead in the sixth minute but his header was tame and straight at Segun Ayo in the Plateau goal. Yusuf Adio would test the keeper three minutes later from a free kick outside the area but again the keeper palmed to safety.
Emeka Isaac nicely created space for himself in the 13th minute but again he could not beat the visiting goalkeeper. Kufre Ebong, Ubong Friday and Michael Okoro were taking turns having a go at the opposition defenders who could do little to stem the tide and when the Promise Keepers attack with a sort of fluency, they are unplayable. The only missing ingredient was a goal which looked like it just would not come.
Adio and Ebong would both come close before the inevitable breakthrough in the 28th minute. A quick Akwa move saw Okoro send a delightful cross into the area. Ubong unmarked, glanced his header into the corner to put Akwa in front. Kayode would be called into action for Akwa seven minutes from the interval in a rare Plateau United attack but the six foot five keeper palmed the ball away. Akwa came close to a second just before half time but Ubong Friday fired a freekick straight at Segun Ayo.
The visitors looked better after the interval but for all their possession, they looked bereft of ideas in the final third. Morris Daddy, drafted in for the injured Turba Benjamin had a chance from just outside the area but like the one he had late in the first half, it looked headed for the rafters.
Akwa United would get their second soon afterwards when Emeka Isaac set up Ubong Friday in the 78th minute. The winger let fly with a rasping shot that Ayo could only flap into his goal. Awakan Abdulafeez and Kufre Ebong had late chances but the finish was wanting, but more importantly, Ubong Friday’s brilliance had done enough.
For the returning Zachary Baraje, he can have little complaints about the result, no team can expect to play like his did and get away with it.