Godwin Obaje’s powerful strike early in the second half was the difference between hosts FC Ifeanyiubah and their neighbours Enyimba FC, in a tough NPFL Matchday 29 clash in Nnewi on Sunday.
The feisty encounter produced six yellow cards evenly shared among both teams to underline the importance the sides attached to the three points at stake.
The hosts settled into the game quickly and put their opponents under immense pressure with some swift passing and neat combinations.
Prince Aggreh, John Huan, Alaekwe Chijoke and Godwin Obaje were very lively and would have snatched an early goal or two if not for some solid defending by Enyimba’s backline which had Nelson Ogbonnaya, Isiaka Oladuntoye, Andrew Abalogu and Ikouwem Udoh holding out.
As the game wore on, Enyimba settled into their stride and started to carve out good attacking opportunities of their own with skipper Mfon Udoh, Ibrahim Mustapha, Stanley Dimgba and Stephen Chukwude leading their charge.
The visitors almost benefited from a fortuitous moment in the 19th minute of the game. Mfon Udoh found space and time in the box after some quick counterattack.
His shot from the edge of the box hit FC Ifeanyiubah’s Olamilekan Adeleye Aniyikaye and would have sailed into the net if not for the sharp reflexes of Drissa Bamba in goal.
Enyimba’s Ikouwem Udoh and FC Ifeanyiubah’s Alaekwe Chijioke would later go into referee Damian Akure’s book later on, in the first half, to underline the game’s competitiveness.
At the break, Enyimba coach Gbenga Ogunbote withdrew Ikouwem Udoh for the more experienced Chima Akas but about five minutes later, Godwin Obaje struck.
A loose ball in midfield fell kindly to Ngoma Luamba whose pass freed Godwin Obaje on FC Ifeanyiubah’s right side of attack.
Obaje held off a desperate Enyimba defender before hitting a powerful shot that flew past Fatau Dauda in goal.
FC Ifeanyiubah coach Yaw Preko would later introduce Bright Onyedikachi for Prince Aggreh, Tony Msonter for a tiring John Huan and the youthful Oni Jimoh for the injured Ikeokwu Patrick.
On his own part, Enyimba’s Gbenga Ogunbote introduced Koffi Franco Atchou for Femi Oladapo and Chinonso Okonkwo for Stephen Chukwude.
Both teams struggled to create any clear-cut goalscoring chances as play was concentrated in the midfield.
Towards the end of the game, mild drama ensued after balls disappeared at the arena.
Some ball boys and a camera man dressed in the colours of the home team were opening involved in some altercations with the Enyimba goalkeeper as he tried to retrieve the ball.
The game was temporarily suspended for a few minutes by the match officials until the balls reappeared.
Officials and fans of the home side heaved huge sighs of relief as the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the tough but entertaining encounter.