By Goodnews Ilekam
Abia Warriors ended the first half of the 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League with a 2-1 victory over Plateau United at Okigwe Township Staduim on Monday.
Goals from Paul Samson and Godwin Obaje either side of Mustapha Ibrahim’s penalty handed the Umuahia club victory against Abdu Maikaba’s team.
Warriors needed just six minutes to take the lead through Paul Samson after a period of sustained pressure. The forward directed Mustapha Jibreel’s pass into the net, leaving goalkeeper Dele Ajiboye helpless.
Plateau United, determined not to succumb to that early setback, threw everything they had going forward and it was not long before respite came, as Markson Ojobo fouled Oche Ochowechi inside the six-yard box in the 11th minute. Mustapha Ibrahim converted the resultant penalty to draw Plateau United level.
Plateau United’s joy was short-lived as Godwin Obaje restored the lead for the hosts in the 16th minute in the aftermath of Dele Ajiboye failing to deal with an aerial ball, allowing the veteran striker to poke home from close range.
The goal gave the Imama Amapakabo’s side stability and vigour to occasionally push for more.
Plateau United’s woes seemed to have been compounded when goalkeeper Dele Ajiboye was stretchered off after a self-inflicted injury following a miscued kick. Adamu Abubakar came on to replace him.
Few minutes after coming on, the goalkeeper was called to duty. Fatai Abdullahi tried to beat the shot-stopper from 12 yards, but he expertly parried the ball to safety.
Just before the break, the goalkeeper produced another brilliant save to deny Warriors. Mustapha Jibreel flicked Kabiru Mohammed’s corner towards goal but the former Wikki Tourists goalie kept out the effort.
The visitors emerged from the half-time break with renewed vigour and showed their intent in the 54th minute, with Abba Umar presented with an opportunity to equalize, but his close-range shot was gallantly saved by goalkeeper Ojo Olorunleke.
Abia warriors soon found a second half steel and almost doubled their lead in the 62nd minute. Godwin Obaje headed straight at goal off a Mustapha Jibreel corner kick, but no thanks to the woodwork, the striker was denied the opportunity to get a brace.
Plateau United pressed on for a late equaliser with a couple of distant shots and in the 86th minute, a chance fell to Ibrahim but his effort went agonizingly wide.
Abia Warriors defended well in the final minutes to secure all three points, which moved them up to tenth in the standings.
Both teams will face each other again on Sunday, as the league enters its second half.
Cautions: 40′ Uche Onwuasonaya, Plateau United (yellow card)
44′ Buhari Ibrahim, Plateau United (yellow card)