It was mixed fortunes for the two coaches in the dug-out at the Adamasingba Stadium in Match Day 1 fixture between hosts, Shooting Stars and Lobi Stars. Coach Kadiri Ikhana was returning to Ibadan after many seasons while Godwin Uwua was also making a return to the elite league and with Lobi Stars, the club at which he gained national prominence in the mid-late 1990’s.
For Ikhana, he started his shift as coach of Shooting Stars with 1-0 loss to Lobi Stars whose coach, Uwua was incidentally making a return to top flight league job after several seasons in the lower division.
Ikhana would afterwards tell npfl.ng in a post-match conference that his tactics failed on the day and accepted responsibility for the loss. “I feel bad just like anyone here but that’s football for you. We are building a new Shooting side, but they played badly today,” Ikhana said.
Basking in his side’s good start to the season, Uwua praised his boys for their fighting spirit, saying: “I must confess that the match was not easy. Ikhana is a respected coach and his team is not easy to beat anyday but I’m glad we grabbed the maximum points in Ibadan.”
It was Kingsley Eduwo who gave the visitors what proved a decisive goal after 15 minutes when Shooting Stars’ defence collapsed, leaving the player to volley beyond goalkeeper Fabiyi Emmanuel from close range.
Ikhana and his team were left miserable as the home fans yelled at them all through the match.
Skipper Seun Akinyemi and his teammates started the game well with Shooting Stars pushing the ball into their opponents’ area but they failed to connect their early opportunities.
Lobi Stars who travelled all the way from Makurdi deserve commendation for a fantastic performance. Uwua-tutored Lobi seized the opening day fixture, pouncing on Shooting Stars’ defence for greater part of the encounter.
The Oluyole Warriors, who lost their first match in similar fashion when the NPFL started last season, had the opportunity to score when Wasiu Jimoh was left clear but he missed target. Olukokun Najeem did not fare better when he got a through pass but he was laid back on the ball for Shehu Nasiru to rush in to clear away from Lobi’s box.
Shooting Stars’ insistence on passive approach limited their first half opportunities, leaving Ikhana frustrated and forced to do two substitutions before the break.
Daddy Bazuaye was handed his debut game when Ikhana pulled out Omololu Waheed, while Sylvanus Ebiaku came on for Yinka Adedeji.
The changes further compounded things for Shooting Stars as they played in an uncoordinated way till end of the first half. Scores remained 1-0 in favour of Lobi when both teams went on recess.
During the restart, the hosts threw everything into the match, leaving Lobi Stars to gasp for breath, but while Shooting Stars showed some fighting spirits, they were shy in front of goal.
Ibrahim Ajani, whose presence was hardly felt in the first half came out to trouble Lobi’s defenders but he failed to beat John Lawrence in goal for the visitors. Each time that Ajani and Bazuaye tried to put one or two passes together, Solomon Kwambe, John Aguda and Agbaji Anthony were on hand to spoil their plans.
Attempts by Shooting Stars to equalise were finally dashed when a confused Ikhana pulled out his first half substitute Bazuaye and threw in Sunday Adetunji.
Shooting Stars piled pressure on their guests and forced four corner kicks in the second half but all came to nothing.
Rather than giving in to pressure Uwua strengthened his team by bringing in Akombo Ukeyima for Kingsley Eduwo and completed his substitutions to ensure his side finished the job.
Shooting Stars and their fans were left to rue another opening season defeat with their heads bowed as they walked out of Adamasingba Stadium, while Lobi Stars hugged each others to celebrate a good start to the season.
Shooting Stars: 1. Fabiyi Emmanuel, 27. Seun Akinyemi, 34. Omololu Waheed, 22. James Moses, 17. Osawe Alaba, 16. Jimoh Ismail, 6. Wasiu Jimoh, 14. Olukokun Najeem, 20. Tunde Bright, 3. Yinka Adedeji, 10. Ajani Ibrahim
Subs: 21. Afeso Attah, 26. Sylvester Ebiaku, 13. Sodiq Suraj, 24. Izu Joseph, 9. Sunday Adetunji, 7. Kabiru Umar, 11. Daddy Bazuaye
Lobi Stars: 16. John Lawrence, 18. Solomon Kwambe, 31. Shehu Nasiru, 26. John Aguda, 5. Agbaji Anthony, 12. Gwarza Iorliam, 14. Alimi Sunday, 8. Ajia Emmanuel, 9. Kingsley Eduwo, 11. Okpotu Anthony, 25. Eche Idakwo
Subs: 1. Melai Yerkaa, 2. Bunde Moses, 17. Akombo Ukeyima, 34. Ezekiel Henry, 15. Ezechukwu Henry
Shooting 0-1 Lobi Stars.
On Target: 8-9
Corner Kicks: 5-3
Yellow card: 2-5
Red card: 0-0.