Mfon Udoh’s 71st minute strike separated winners from losers in this keenly-contested Matchday 32 fixture between seven-time NPFL champions Enyimba International and Kano Pillars on Sunday. Enyimba won 1-0.
The match which was the pick of the matchday for so many followers of the Nigeria Professional Football League lived up to expectation as both coaches went for attacking style of play with Enyimba coach Gbenga Ogunbote starting four attackers in front of two midfielders.
Kano Pillars manager, Ibrahim Musa on the other hand opted for three midfielders and three attackers.
A crowd of 3,088 football lovers, mostly dominated by ‘Sai Masu Gida’ fans were treated to a battle of the midfield between Ikechukwu Ibenegbu and Pillars captain Rabiu Ali.
The match kicked off by Kano Pillars saw Enyimba winning the first free kick in the fifth minute which was taken by Ibenegbu but it went inches off target.
Six minutes later it was the turn of Pillars who also got a free kick in the 11th minute after Dare Ojo brought down Nwagua Nyima, but the free kick was too far to count.
Twenty minutes into the match, Enyimba winger Stanley Dimgba crossed a free kick into Pillars’ area and Mfon Udoh fired his shot off target.
However, a begging chance came the way of Enyimba in the 27th minute, as Ibrahim Mustapha tried a bicycle kick which went over the bar.
The ding-dong affair continued between both teams and 34 minutes later, Rabiu Ali’s free kick went too high to yield a goal.
A minute later, the visitors went one man down when Junior Lokosa was red carded by the centre referee Wale Adeniyi for a rough tackle on Ifeanyi Anaemena.
Resilient Kano Pillars kept on pressing and defending decently despite their numerical disadvantage.
Second half started with Enyimba pressing to turn their numerical advantage into a goal but the experienced Pillars side fought them tirelessly.
In the 59th minute, Ibrahim Mustapha fired a shot from close range but it was grazed the crossbar before Pillars’ defence cleared.
Desperate to see a result in the game, Enyimba gaffer Gbenga Ogunbote made a change in his attack, pulling out Stanley Dimgba for Stephen Chukwude in the 63rd minute.
No matter how much the Pillars defence frustrated Enyimba’s attack, Udoh and Stephen Chukwude kept knocking and looking to unlock the defence.
Finally in the 71st minute Udoh controlled the ball in the box and was brought down. The referee spotted a contact and awarded a penalty which was converted by the Enyimba captain.
Shortly after the restart, Pillars counterattack was called off when the assistant referee made an offside call.
Relentless Udoh in the 86th minute laid a deadly pass which was poorly finished by Chukwude.
Pillars not ready to give up without a fight won a corner kick two minutes to the end of regulated time which was cleared by the Enyimba defence.
Udoh yet again just before the 90th minute ran at the Pillars before threading a pass to Chukwude who impatiently ballooned the ball.
The match ended with Enyimba winning all three points, while Pillars failed to avenge Enyimba’s double over them last season.
Both teams are still hoping for a continental spot but have tough fixtures on Matchday 33 with Pillars welcoming table-toppers, Plateau United, while Enyimba will be traveling to Lagos to face second-placed MFM who won away in Sagamu.