Enyimba Football Club forced Sunshine Stars to a scoreless draw in a Nigeria Professional Football League match at the Akure Township Stadium on Sunday evening.
Bashir Abdulrahaman’s first half effort against the upright proved to be the closest chance of the high-paced contest that was never short on quality.
The hosts took control of the early exchanges and came close to racing into a quick lead with Esosa Igbinoba’s header from close range, but Stanley Nwabali went full length to parry away for a corner.
The pendulum quickly swang to the other end and Enyimba got into attack with Ikouwem Udo and Reuben Bala combining well from the left, but the latter failed to control the final delivery.
The visitors continued to settle in and soon went on another foray when Austin Oladapo’s pass from deep freed Abdulrahaman in the box, and the forward drove to the side before shooting against near post.
The hosts, much like in the first, dominated the beginning of the second half but were limited to half chances as the Enyimba backline showed remarkable composure on their duties.
With the clock ticking towards the ninety, Enyimba squandered the chance to sneak in a late winner when Abdulrahaman failed to connect Oladapo who arrived in acres of space in the box.
The draw, Enyimba’s third inv the last five, leaves the seven times champions second in group A with sixteen points.
Speaking post match, Enyimba technical adviser, Usman Abd’Allah expressed mixed feelings about the result.
“It is a kind of bitter, sweet, sour kind of emotion; but I’m happy with the draw. The most important thing is to pick something up because we were coming down to get the three points or just get something and take back home. We were not able to get the three points but at least we got a point which means we are at least one step ahead.
“It is these points, whether it is one or three, that will qualify us. As I said, the most important thing is to qualify for the playoffs. It doesn’t matter if we are first, second or third; the most important thing is to qualify and that’s what we are trying to do now.”
Enyimba have an impeccable defensive record in their last five – not conceding in any. The seven times champions have, however, failed to score in three of those, and Abd’Allah admits that there’s is still work to be done.
“Now we have to go back again and start scoring again because at the beginning of the season we were scoring and conceding then we came back not scoring and not conceding.
“The defence is doing well but we still have to get some bite in the attack because we only have Bashir (Abdulrahaman) with four goals and Mustapha with one and three assists, so we need our strikers to keep on scoring goals. They have to keep on scoring goals. The defence is a little bit stabilised, but still we have a lot of work to do in defence.”