A brace by Adamu Hassan sufficed for Nasarawa United to beat El-Kanemi 2-1 at the Lafia City Stadium but the stand-out performer was Thomas Zenke.
Zenke left nobody in doubt as to his deserved invitation to the CHAN Eagles being the chief tormentor as the hosts created chance upon chance but, characteristically, converted few.
Nasarawa United’s poor showing in front of goal is now a source of worry to coach Kabiru Dogo, who agreed his team’s dominance, particularly in the earlier minutes, wasn’t reflected on the scoreline.
“I know to score two goals against an experienced side like El-Kanemi isn’t easy but we should have scored more. We have to go back to training and work on our goalscoring. The last time we created up to 20 chances yet scored only one. Today you saw how many chances we created. Yet it didn’t show on the scoreline”, he said.
The biggest culprit on the night was Abdulrahman Bashir. During the half hour mark while Nasarawa pinned El-Kanemi to their own half with Zenke all over the place, Bashir lost two golden opportunities.
In the 7th minute, he was teed up by Zenke but he shot wide. Five minutes later, Hassan played him through and with the keeper at his mercy, he missed target again.
Those misses were assuaged by the fact that in the 5th minute, Hassan had latched unto a cross-field pass by Abubakar Ahmed to give Nasarawa the lead.
That was a goal which El-Kanemi coach, Ladan Bosso admitted unsettled his team.
“The two goals were avoidable but the early goal threw my boys off balance. Congrats to Nasarawa. They are a compact team and they played well. They deserved to win, no doubt. We have to go back and work on the faults we noticed in our game today,” he observed.
But Bosso should be thankful to the profligate Nasarawa players. It could have been worse.
In the 21st minute, Buhari Jafar’s curler from the edge of the box was inches wide while in the 42nd minute, El-Kanemi keeper George Michael dived full-length to thwart Zenke’s dangerously looping cross. But the keeper needed medical attention afterwards.
El-Kanemi’s only attempt at goal in the first half was a sublime link-up between Samuel Mathias and Sunday Anthony in the 25th minute. Anthony took down Mathias’ 30-yard pass with his chest and hit on a half volley. Keeper Suraj Ayeleso was lucky the effort was inches off target.
But a minute after restart, Hassan nodded in an exquisite cross by Zenke to extend the hosts’ lead.
Then came the moment Ayeleso made many wonder why he was omitted from the CHAN Eagles. In the 52nd minute, he made himself big, threw his arm up and tipped Isiaka Olawale’s goal-bound effort into corner. Olawale and many at the arena thought El-Kanemi had scored but Ayeleso pulled a world class save.
Ayeleso may have succeeded in keeping Olawale’s effort away but he couldn’t stop the resultant corner kick. Chibuzor Okonkwo’s corner was nodded in by Hashimu Haliru in the 53rd minute.
It was game on. The visitors were suddenly in it. In the 81st minute, Ibrahim Babangida’s nodded effort off Yahuza Bala’s cross came off the woodwork.
Both substitutes had brought some urgency into El-Kanemi’s attack making for a tense finale.
The hosts were even more edgy when Abubakar Ahmed was issued a straight red for a foul on keeper, Michael in the 89th minute.
Ultimately, the Solid Miners held on to secure all three points but their wastefulness almost proved costly.
Dogo couldn’t hide his respect for Bosso and El-Kanemi.
His words: “This is a very experienced team with an experienced coach and we had to be very careful. We didn’t want them to settle down so we attacked them from the blast of the whistle. That is the only way to survive. If they had settled, they would have punished us.”
By Clement Nwankpa Jr for lmcnpfl
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