Man of the match, Theophilus Afelokhai produced a string of top rate saves as Enyimba Football Club weathered a second-half surge by Lobi Stars to ensure a goalless draw at the Aper Aku Stadium on Sunday evening.
Afelokhai tipped Solomon Kwambe’s superb free kick over the top before going full stretch to stop Samad Kadiri’s headed effort in a match of shared dominance.
The visitors began stronger and totally bossed the first period, limiting the hosts to half chances on the break. Joseph Osadiaye, Austin Oladapo and Bashir Abdulrahaman all had glimpses of goal in an emphatic opening five minutes of palpable superiority from the seven times champions; but the best chance of the half came around the quarter hour when Abdulrahaman failed to connect strongly to Thomas Zenke’s lobbing pass with only Egbe Ospino to beat.
Andrew Abalogu attempted the spectacular midway through, chipping over a badly positioned Ospino from the right flank, only for the effort to go a hair’s breadth off target.
With the half ticking away, Kelly Kester was left in front of the Enyimba box, but his strike was only speculative and Afelokhai gathered with ease.
Enyimba endured their first real scare of the fixture three minutes into the restart when Samad Kadiri’s header from a free kick bounced off the crossbar. The forward had another chance moments later but headed well wide.
Solomon Kwambe came close to hitting the opener on the hour with a spectacular free kick from twenty yards, but Afelokhai went full stretch to tip over in a nearly impossible angle. Moments later, John Lazarus sliced down the right flanks before cutting back for Austin Ogunye who casually shot over from range.
Kadiri once again troubled in the air but watched in disbelief as Afelokhai dug deep to keep out his goal-bound header with only five minutes left on the clock.
The last chance of the match, however, came at the other end as Abdulrahaman benefitted from a defensive lapse, but Kwambe stepped up with a late intervention to squeeze any chance of dramatic climax.
In the end, the final score was a only false reflection of a thoroughly enthralling game.
ABD’ALLAH LAMENTS INJURIES, HAILS TEAM FOR ‘ENCOURAGING RESULT’
Enyimba technical adviser, Usman Abd’Allah has revealed that his side were forced to resort to an alternative system following injuries to his players in the second half of Sunday’s Nigeria Professional Football League clash with Lobi Stars.
The gaffer was unable to make any tactical change in the fixture as Joseph Osadiaye, Andrew Abalogu and Nasiru Sani all got substituted in the second half with different knocks.
While bemoaning the situation, Abd’Allah praised his team for being able to overcome the situation and secure a point.
“It’s a very good result even though we are still searching for our first away win. But the result is encouraging and I’m happy with the result.
“We played very well in the first half. The strategy we went with in the first half was a strategy whereby we will have to play safe in the first half so that we would open up in the second half.
“But for this match, we went with a limited option of players so we had to improvise in certain positions and then try to change the tactical approach of the team.
“Unfortunately for us after seeing what they are capable of in the first half, we came into the second half with a totally different idea but we had some injuries and some of the players we never thought of replacing got replaced so the whole of what we intended to do in the second half had to change and we had to go to plan B and secure the point.”