Enyimba was, on Sunday, unable to perpetuate its undefeated streak at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, losing 1-0 to Akwa United.
The Week 27 encounter, keenly contested, was decided by Musa Newman’s near post dart and finish in the 17th minute.
The meeting of third and fourth on the Nigeria Professional Football League table promised fireworks, and largely delivered.
Both teams came into the game on the back of good results from their previous games: a creditable point on the road in Sagamu; for Enyimba, a crushing 4-0 defeat of El Kanemi Warriors in Calabar.
Enyimba made two alterations to the side that secured that big win, both injury-enforced. Ifegwu Ojukwu came into the side in place of Ibrahim Mustapha, while a knock in training to Nelson Ogbonnaya saw Ifeanyi Anaemena take his place in the heart of the defence.
The hosts were quickly out of the blocks, as the People’s Elephant struggled to get a rhythm going.
Newman came closest to scoring, attacking a cross to the far post in the 11th minute, but unable to steer it between the posts as Andrew Abalogu exerted pressure.
Then came a chance for Alhassan Ibrahim, who feinted in the box to evade two challenges and looked destined to score, but for a determined block by Isiaka Oladuntoye.
Akwa United were relentless in their closing down and energy, and were creating waves of pressure.
A lax moment by goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai almost let them in, but he redeemed himself, claiming the resultant chip after a miscued clearance.
Eventually, there was just dividend for the hosts’ endeavour.
Alhassan found space in midfield, and threaded the ball through down the left to meet the run of Ubong Friday.
His low, near post cross was met by Newman, who reacted quickest to turn the ball home past a stranded Afelokhai.
Unable to maintain such a high tempo for long, the hosts dropped off, and Enyimba came into the game more.
There were, however, no proper openings of note – hopeful efforts from both Stanley Dimgba and Ojukwu, both in the aftermath of set pieces, failed to trouble Ojo Olorunleke in the Akwa goal.
The second half began with a notable increase in fervor from seven-time champions Enyimba, but it was the hosts who had a penalty appeal turned down in the 50th minute.
An over hit through ball was smothered by Afelokhai, with Newman stumbling in the box. Hopeful cries to the referee were waved away by the referee.
The best opening of the half was fashioned by Enyimba. Chinonso Okonkwo worked a bit of space on the right, but his cross to Stanley Dimgba lacked momentum, and the latter’s header skewed wide.
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