By Clement Nwankpa Jr
Akwa United booked a place in the final of the Aiteo Cup with a 3-1 defeat of Sunshine Stars in the second leg at Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo. Cyril Olisema opened scores in the 35th minute while Christian Pyagbara grabbed the second in the 62nd minute.Substitute Franklin Sasere’s 86th minute strike ensured a nervy end from the hosts’ perspective, but Ifeanyi Ifeanyi scored two minutes later to spark wild celebrations around the arena. We learnt five things from the game…
(1) DAYO IS THE BOSS
Taking into cognizance Akwa’s midfield featuring the likes of Afeez Aremu and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, this game spoke volumes of Sunshine’s Dayo Ojo’s qualities. He bossed the middle of the park and in one moment of brilliance, he nutmegged Ifeanyi drawing applause from the largely partisan crowd.
(2) NEWMAN, FOX IN THE BOX, BUT…
One thing about Musa Newman is that he has his sights only at goal. Some strikers are adept at holding the ball up and playing team mates on but when Musa turns away, he unleashes the ball at goal. And he doesn’t just rely on the supplies, he knows how to create the chances himself. He rattled Sunshine keeper, Henry Ayodele a couple of times. But he was guilty of one of the misses of the game when he failed to hit target with the net begging. That miss would have proved costly if Ifeanyi didn’t strike late to rescue the Promise Keepers.
(3) OTEGBEYE’S MISS COULD HAVE TURNED IT
Ajibola Otegbeye missed a golden opportunity to swing the game Sunshine’s way but missed target just before half time. That would have sent both teams into the dressing room at 1-1. What a turning point that would have been as Akwa would have needed two more goals on resumption. The opportunity fell for the best possible Sunshine player but Otegbeye disappointed this time.
(4) AYODELE, THE ‘HEAVYWEIGHT’ KEEPER
One prominent comic relief in this game was Sunshine’s keeper Henry Ayodele throwing his massive frame around. Each bounce drew commensurate cheers and jeers from fans who wondered how somebody with such physique could be involved in professional football. It’s hard to believe his body frame doesn’t affect his performance. There were moments in this game he could have fared better if he was lighter. Still a mystery how he still gets professional contracts.
(5) AKWA’S HYPER-OFFENSIVE PLAY ISN’T OVERRATED
Not a few observers rated Akwa as the team that played the best football in the last NPFL season. This is due to their fluid, high-pressing game. Abdu Maikaba’s wards create chances for fun. Before Franklin Sasere’s 86th minute goal gave Sunshine the advantage, Akwa had several opportunities to extend their lead but failed to take them. Only a few teams would have survived Sasere’s late scare. But Akwa sustained the pressure leading to Ifeanyi’s late match winner. They have justified all the fuse about their awe-inspiring offensive football. Hmmmmm…This team will take some stopping next season…