___Lose 1-0 in Ibadan, Okechukwu sees red
Akwa United’s hope of finishing among the top three teams in the league and picking one of the continental tickets went up in smoke on Sunday in Ibadan as they suffered their 12th defeat of the season losing 1-0 to Shooting Stars Sports Club 3SC.
Seun Akinyemi scored a second half penalty to help 3SC record a slim 1-0 victory over ten man Akwa United at the Lekan Salami Stadium in the penultimate match of the season in the Nigeria Professional Football League.
3SC were awarded the penalty in the 80th minutes after the referee adjudged Ifeanyi Ifeanyi to have fouled Sunday Faleye in the box.
Captain Seun Akinyemi converted the spot kick to secure all three points for home team.
With seventeen minutes before the end of the game, Gabriel Okechukwu was brandished a straight red card for contesting an aerial ball with an outstretched arm which impeded Ayobami Junior of 3SC.
Both teams began the game with great determination but it was the Promise Keepers that quickly settled in and dictated the flow of the game with Cyril Olisema and Gabriel Okechukwu missing their team’s early chances.
In what was a fairly balanced first half, Akwa United’s defense was well coordinated by Ariwachukwu Emmanuel and Godspower Igudia who made some timely interceptions and clearance to repel the attacking moves of Wasiu Jimoh and Abu Azeez as Ishmaila Shagari had little or nothing to do in the first half.
However, it was striker Gabriel Okechukwu who missed the best chance of the first half when he was put through on goal with only the keeper to beat, but he lashed his shot straight at outrushing Abubakar Adamu who made a smart save as the first half ended in a stalemate.
Knowing that they will be relegated if they fail to win, 3SC stepped up their game in the second half but were constantly kept in check by a well-coordinated Akwa United defense.
With time running out, 3SC threw men forward in search of the much needed goal. The game took another twist in the 73rd minute when Gabriel Okechukwu was sent off with a straight red card after contesting an aerial ball with Ayobami Junior.
The referee adjudged that Okechukwu’s outstretched arm had impeded the 3SC player.
The home team threatened to capitalize on the numerical advantage but their efforts were successfully repelled by the Promise Keepers.
The moment of relief came in the 80th minute for the Oluyole Warriors after the referee spotted an infringement in Akwa United’s box and quickly pointed to the spot. 3SC’s Captain Seun Akinyemi stepped up and scored the only goal of the match to ease his team’s relegation concerns at least till the last match of the season.
With the result Akwa United slipped out of the top three on the log for the first time in eight weeks following Enyimba’s 1-1 draw in Enugu against Enugu Rangers.
However, the Promise Keepers can still make it to the continent through the AITEO Cup-the competition they won in 2015.
Coach Abdu Maikaba’s team will next face Yobe Dersert Stars in the Round of 32 of the AITEO Cup in Uyo on Wednesday before taking on Kano Pillars in the last match of the season at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium next weekend.