Two first half goals from Ifeanyi Ogba who suffered a goal draught since MatchDay 13 and Utim Godfrey in the 50th and 82nd minute respectively gave Lobi Stars a crucial 2-1 victory over Nasarawa United in the NPFL Match Day 26 fixture at the Aper Aku stadium in Makurdi.
The visitor’s consolatory goal came in the second half additional time when Michael Tochukwu converted from the spot.
As tough as the duel appeared to be both on paper and on-field, the result wouldn’t have shown a close contest if the quartet of Ifeanyi Ogba, Mubarak Sai’d, Ayagwa Raphael, Onuwa Chukwuka took the several chances that came their way.
The visitors also threatened so early in the match as Chinedu Iheanachom who broke away through the left in the 5th minute was goal bound but the quick close up of strong footed Endurance Ededebiri blocked the ball across the goal line for the first corner kick of the game in favor of Nasarawa United.
The narrow escape served as a wake up call as Lobi Stars immediately kept their heads up knowing the importance of the game to them.
In the 7th minute, Onuwa set up his brand forward pass for Mubarak on the left, Mubarak’s quick cross was returned to Onuwa by Ogba, Onuwa’s intelligent strike went beyond the reach of Goalkeeper Sunday Okoh but unfortunately hit the cross bar and bounced back into play.
Mubarak had another opportunity in the 14 minute but his long range shot narrowly missed the target.
First yellow card of the game was flashed on Michael Tochukwu for exerting excessive force to dispossess Azeez Shobowale of the ball.
A 19th minute opportunity came through Ogba as eventual Man of the match, Onuwa Chukwuka, set a through pass that got Ogba with only Goalkeeper Okoh to beat but his quick close up blocked the shot that would have put Lobi Stars ahead.
Another glaring opportunity came for the home boys when John Lazarus initiated an attack from the defense in the 34th minute and put through for a forward running Ayagwa Raphael who drove forward and returned to Lazarus to strike at goal but the shot went wild.
Several chances that came the way of Lobi Stars at regular intervals were not taken just as occasional chances created by the visitors were scuttled by the excellent defensive work of Endurance Ededebiri, Moses Tsehuan, John Lazarus and Ganda Samuel to push the game into a barren first half.
Lobi Stars showed a greater zeal to find the back of the net upon resumption in the second half.
A throw in delivered by Lazarus in 47th located Azeez Shobowale whose shot at goal flipped away from the post for a goal kick advantage to Nasarawa United.
The moment of respite for the pride of Benue came when Ogba benefited from a clinical and slim chanced pass that got him with the goalkeeper to beat and his timely shot this time beat Sunday Okoh who was late to stop the shot for the deadlock to be broken.
While the goal was being celebrated, Coach Mohammed Baba Ganaru who displayed discontent for the one goal, rejigged the team as he threw up Monday Akile and daring striker Utim Godfrey in place of Intelligent midfield player Pius Eyigege and Sai’d Mubarak in the 51st minute, while Ini Edem was issued a yellow car two minutes after the goal.
Ganaru kept adding strength with effective changes as Azeez Shobowale was rested for Osimaga Duke in the 54th minute.
Onuwa’s dashing effort through the middle right was capped with a dangerous low cross in front of the Solid Miners defense but out of reach of the nearest team mate to convert to a goal.
Ogba missed another opportunity to make it two as he failed to convert Lazarus’ 57th minute cross.
Three minutes later, Ikenna Offor got an opportunity to draw level for Nasarawa United but his power strike went over the woodwork.
Victor Collins who was a Pillar in the visitors team was yellow carded in the 66th.
Gabriel Ugochukwu’s 69th minute long throw-in was headed out of danger by Ededebiri.
Chinonso Okonkwo took over from goal scorer, Ogba in the 74th minute.
Four minutes later Nasarawa United’s Ugochukwu was shown a yellow card as he hacked down Onuwa in the 78th minute.
Daring and intimidating large framed striker, Utim Godfrey, took a risk that almost got him injured to slot in the second goal while Substitute Sarki Ibrahim was yellow carded for trying to dangerously stop Utim from scoring the second goal.
Two minutes into added time, Tsehuan brought down Adams Hassan in the penalty area and FIFA Grema Mohammed did not hesitate in awarding a penalty kick.
Tochukwu made no mistake as he hung the ball in far left angle in the 90+3 minutes to end the game 2-1 in favor of Lobi Stars.
As tensed as the game was with all the local derby related issues, former Nigeria International, Vice Chairman/CEO of Lobi Stars Dominic Iorfa kept vigil to ensure the game was played under the most friendly atmosphere.
With this victory, Lobi Stars are now 16th place and waiting to cap it with the MatchDay 27 opponents Katsina United on the May 8, 2022 in the second of the double home fixture.
Lobi Stars Lineup:
Aliko Mustapha, John Lazarus, Ganda Samuel, Ayagwa Raphael, Tsehuan Moses, Ededebiri Endurance, Shobowale Azeez (Duke Osimaga 54′), Pius Eyigege (Monday Akile 51′), Ifeanyi Ogba (Chinonso Okonkwo 74′), Onuwa Chukwuka, Mubarak Sai’d ( Mubarak Sai’d 51′),
Emeka Onyia, Kwambe Solomon, Agbaji Tony, Precious Omudu, Barnabas Imenger Jnr,
Cautions; Toochukwu Michael 16′ (Nas), Ini Edem 52′ (Nas), Victor Collins 66′(Nas), Ugochukwu Gabriel 78′ (Nas), Sarki Ibrahim 82′ (Nas)