____record first away win of the season
Christian Pyagbara’s 19th minute goal motivated Akwa United to a morale boosting 0-1 victory over Kano Pillars on matchday 18 of the Nigeria Professional Football League NPFL at the Sani Abacha’s stadium in Kano on Sunday.
A brilliant exchange of passes by Aremu Afeez and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi following a counter attack by the Promise Keepers was perfectly received by Alhassan Ibrahim who neatly assisted Pyagbara to score the only goal of the match.
The bulldozer striker was one of the three changes coach Maikaba made to the starting line up from the team that beat 3SC in Uyo on matchday 17 and he quickly made his impact felt in the 19th minute with what was his second goal of the season, silencing the capacity crowd at the Sani Abacha Stadium.
The Promise Keepers dominated play in the midfield as Ifeanyi, Aremu, and Alhassan detected the pace of the game and simply outclassed their host throughout the duration of the game.
Ubong Friday and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi could have doubled their team’s lead in the 23th and 27th minute but their efforts were off target.
A superior performance by coach Maikaba boys forced Pillars to effect their first substation in the 27th with Nazifi Yahaya replaced by Adamu Muhammad.
The home team had their first real chance to score in the 30th minute but Kabiru Balogun’s shot narrowly missed the target as Akwa United went into the break with a 0-1 lead.
The two teams resumed the second stanza of the game with high hopes, but it was Akwa United that picked up from where the left off, settling in nicely and frustrating all the attacking moves of their host.
Goal scorer Christian Pyagbara was a thorn in the flesh for Chinedu Udoji in the heart of Pillars defense. Amaechi Orji and Paterne Counou gave good account of themselves in the left wing and Ubong Friday and Kodjo Dadzie were terrorising Pillars defense at will.
And on the other end, Godspower Igudia and Ariwachukwu Emmanuel formed solid partnership, winning all aerial battles and marshalling a watertight defense.
The home team threw in Bala Zakka and Amos Gyang to replaced Victor Dennis and Ibrahim Ahassan but their introduction amounted to nothing as goalkeeper Emmanuel Iwu was in his right element to deny all of Pillars late charge.
Coach Maikaba made three tactical changes in an attempt to defend his team’s lead. Musa Newman, Gideon Julius and Chigozie Chilekwu were introduced in the second half as replacement for Ubong Friday, Amaechi Orji and Christian Pyagbara respectively.
Referee Omowaiye Segun from Lagos and his assistants were fair and firm in their decisions despite persistent pressure and shouts from the fans who threw missiles into the pitch towards the end of the match. But Akwa United held on to what was their first win against Pillars in Kano and their first away winning of the season.
The defeat was the second home match in a row in which Pillars failed to win and their second defeat in three games, thereby condemning Masu Gida to 11th position on the NPFL table.
The victory moved Akwa United to 5th position on the NPFL table with 26 points from 18 matches and they will next engage Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries MFM of Lagos in Uyo in the last match of the first stanza of the league.
There was however a bitter end to the match. Violence erupted after the final whistle. Players and officials were on the receiving end as angry home fans unleashed missiles unto the pitch denying the players and officials access to the dressing room.
One of the match officials slumped after he was hit on the chest, Akwa United’s goalkeeper trainer Moses Effiong (MON) was hit in the head and two defenders Ofem Inah and Kodjoiv Dadzie were seriously beaten up in the tunnel leading to the dressing room.
Akwa United’s team bus was an object of attack as it was stoned while driving out of the stadium thus forcing the team to seek solace outside the city of Kano.