Akwa United’s dream of lifting the Nigeria Professional Football League title for the first time in their 24 year-old history is fast becoming a reality following their resounding 3-0 victory over struggling Warri Wolves on match-day 34 of the season at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium on Wednesday.
Two goals by talisman and former Warri Wolves striker Charles Atshimene in both halves and Ubong Friday’s spectacular strike, sealed a comprehensive victory for the Promise Keepers and helped them open a six-point gap at the summit of the log with four matches left to play before the end of the season.
With 64 points from 34 games and six points above joint second-placed teams Nasarawa United and Kano Pillars, the two-time Federation Cup Champions are within touching distance from clinching their first league title.
After picking a vital point in Port Harcourt on match-day 33, Coach Kennedy Boboye made just two changes to the team that started the game against Rivers United on Sunday. Attacking midfielder Seth Mayi and striker Ikechukwu Nwani were preferred to start ahead of Adam Yakubu and Ubong Essien.
The home side hit the ground running early on and forced their visitors into conceding an early penalty when Warri Wolves defender used his hand to block Ikechukwu Nwani’s goal-bound effort inside the box.
The referee spotted the hand-ball incident and pointed to the spot. Striker Charles Atshimene stepped up and dispatched it beautifully to give his team the lead with his 13th goal of the season.
Akwa United almost doubled their lead in the 24th minute but Samuel Amadi failed to direct his effort at goal after being put through by Nwani.
Two minutes later, Amadi redeemed himself with a brilliant display, he managed to stay on his feet and cut through a crowded Wolves defence before putting it in a plate for the captain Ubong Friday, who curled home a delightful ball to increase his team’s advantage.
The dominant home side thought they have gotten their third goal of the match in the 38th when Ubong Friday dribbled his way into Wolves’ box and fired his shot at goal but the goal-bound effort was blocked onto the path of Seth Mayi. The midfielder successfully looped the ball over the goalkeeper only for his effort to be headed away on the goalline by Okoro Ebuka.
Dare Ojo’s attempt to score Akwa United’s third goal in the first half was unsuccessful as his well struck effort from free kick after a foul on Charles Atshimene flew into the waiting hands of goalkeeper Pwadadi Bulus in Wolves’ goal as they ended the first-half with a 2-nil lead.
The Promise Keepers continued the second half from where they left off the first, by creating two quick chances, however Olisa Ndah and Charles Atshimene were unable to find the back of the net with their headed attempts, four minutes after the restart.
Akwa United got their third goal of the game in the 58th minute through top striker Charles Atshimene who rose the highest to flick into the far post Samuel Amadi’s pin-point delivery from a corner-kick to increase his tally to 14th goal so far this season.
Coach Boboye, in a tactical switch replaced Ubong Friday and Samuel Amadi with speedster Wisdom Fernando and legendary striker Akarandut Orok.
The duo got into the mix and almost immediately. A neat build-up from the back saw Olisa Ndah,Sampson Gbadebo and Seth Mayi exchange beautifully to locate Wisdom Fernando on the left flank, the winger dribbled his way around the visitors’ box and was bundled to the ground, but his appeal for a foul was waved away by the referee.
Moments later, Akarandut Orok received a good ball and pushed his way forward but wasted too much time only for the visitors to recover and clear the danger.
Coach Boboye withdrew goal scorer Charles Atshimene and Seth Mayi, and introduced Ubong Essien and Nasiru Jibril towards the end of the game. Essien was the first to get into action when he fired Dare Ojo’s cut back high and over the bar from outside the box.
Nasiru Jibril had a wonderful opportunity to register his name among the goal scorers when he was put through one-on-one with Bulus, but he lifted his effort a little too high and it’s went over the bar, much to his disappointment as the team closed the game with a straight-forward victory.
The win over Warri Wolves is Akwa United’s 17th victory of the season. They have scored 43 goals and conceded 19 and enjoy a superior goal difference of +24.
The Promise Keepers will next engage Jigawa Golden Stars on match-day 35 at the Nest of Champions on Sunday 25th July, 2021 and victory on Sunday will move the Uyo-based side even closer to winning their maiden NPFL title.
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