Mfon and Ibenegbu magic; Enyimba 2-1 Akwa United 

Good morning Guys, 

We gave our late surge for the title a boost after we battled to a 2-1 win over Akwa United thus completing a season double over the Promise Keepers. Its been a while since they beat us in the League, last season we shared the spoils in both fixtures and this term, we got wins over them home and away. 

The buildup to the game was anything but juicy. Their fans travelling from Uyo to Port Harcourt got involved in an accident after their bus had a brake failure. Several were injured and later we heard one person actually died. For those of us at the stadium, from both teams, it was heartbreaking and there was a moment of silence prior kickoff. 

Mr Aigbogun stuck by the same eleven that conquered Mamelodi Sundowns last Tuesday. The only difference was Olufemi Oladapo who was drafted in to replace Nzube Anaezemba. On the bench, Ibenegbu was deemed fit after his recent injury so he replaced Ifeanyi Onuigbo. 

We got off to a decent start but the visitors had a simple game plan; stiffle them in midfield, break up attacks and hit them quickly on the break. It worked for most times. It was not until Etor and Mfon got infield to add more bodies and exchange passes with Oladapo and Kester that we began to make forrays at their goal. Soon enough we had them pegged back. 

The goal eventually came, and it was after Chukwude was brought down in their box. Idio Ubong the culprit on that occassion. Mfon Udoh stepped up and made it goal number 10 this season, goal number 1 in the League. The guys at OptaNGR quickly rolled out a stat. Mfon Udoh has now scored 7 goals more than any other Enyimba player this season. 

I think that sounds tad shocking because that’s only his first goal in the League but it does tell a lot about how much our strikers have struggled this term. Osadiaye who has also gotten a couple of goals himself plays not up top but on the opposite wing as Mfon. Guess we’ll have to really have a good check on our attack as the end of the season comes upon us.

As we piled the pressure on them further, Chukwude yet again was hacked down in the area in the 40th minute. It was a stonewall penalty and the referee’s decision to look the other way eventually didn’t go down well with those watching. Perhaps he was thinking, Yea I’d given them one so, I won’t give them another one. But the rule says, fouls in the area = penalty. 

It also didn’t help his subsequent officiating because when Babangida Hassan equalized for Akwa just before the break, voices in his head started asking him what justified not giving Enyimba the second penalty. We see referees do it in Europe. Mike Dean has given four in three matches this season. Tackles in the area should be punished regardless of who’s leading. 

It was this sort of decision that cost us in Enugu earlier this season. We had a chance to go 2-0 up after Ousmane hacked down Osadiaye in the area. The referee took a hard long look and just turned the other way. The result was well Rangers came back in the second half and beat us 2-1 in Enugu. If there’s a stonewall penalty, award it and save yourself from trying to make amends with dodgy decisions later in the game. 

After battling hard against a resolute Akwa United side, they eventually caved in. We were awarded a free kick just outside their area 10 minutes to go. Ibenegbu who at this time had replaced Femi Oladapo, stepped up and curled it home. The visitors protested that the referee hadn’t blown his whistle. And the referee cut our dancing short asking for a retake. 

Ibenegbu then showed it was no fluke as he stepped up, took the free kick again. In the same manner as the first, it sailed over the wall, same technique and landed right in the same corner as the first effort. I mean it looked like if he was asked to take it ten times, he would score all ten. In the ensuing celebration, he took off his jersey and got his yellow for it. 

We held off nicely as the visitors tried to rally. They had one late chance that somehow the runner failed to put it past Afelokhai. But it was nothing short of a deserved win. Notable mentions tho, Uche John and Emma Anyanwu did their jobs well as emergency fullbacks. With Uwadiegwu out injured its likely the Center back may be deployed at left back yet again. 

Mfon Udoh put it some fight that is only similar to his heroics of two seasons ago. Coming back to aid the defence, chasing, harrying and creating chances all game, it was good to see. The team heads to Warri on Wednesday in a rescheduled NPFL fixture as we look to mount a late title hunt. Let’s keep the momentum now. 

Back tomorrow



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