By Zazi Bariza
Enyimba Football Club have shot to the top of the Nigeria Professional Football League championship playoff with a 3-1 win against FC Ifeanyi Uba at the Agege Stadium on Monday evening.
Reuben Bala scored a brace and Bashir Abdulrahaman added a third to render Promise James’s spectacular freekick harmless and push the former champions close to a record eight NPFL title.
Enyimba controlled the early exchanges and took a worthy lead in the nineteen minute when Abdulrahaman capitalised on a loose ball to set up Bala, who rounded the keeper before slotting into the net with his left foot.
A flurry of chances ensued for the former champions. Abdulrahaman cut in from the left and saw his curler deflected out of touch before Sharp Uzoigwe denied Freedom Omofoman’s header from the resultant corner and Anaemena nodded wide from close range.
Ifeanyi Uba pulled out of their shells after the half hour and drew level in style when Promise James’s thunderous freekick from over thirty yards found its way past Theophilus Afelokhai into the net.
Enyimba came close to an immediate response but Bala shot wide from close range after another show of industry by Abdulrahaman.
Bala made up for the miss shortly before the break, pouncing on a rebound from his own effort to shoot into the roof of the net, following an initial strike by Omofoman.
Abdulrahaman sealed Enyimba’s win before the hour mark when he muscled his way onto Chinedu Udeagha’s long ball before shooting straight into the middle.
The result assures Enyimba of a top three finish, and entry into one of Africa’s club competitions next season.
The People’s Elephant can also claim an eighth league crown with a win against Akwa United in their final match of the playoff on Wednesday.
1 Theophilus Afelokhai (12 Fatau Dauda 60′)
23 Stanley Okorom, 6 Ernest Governor, 24 Nelson Ogbonnaya, 5 Ifeanyi Anaemena
30 Dare Olatunji, 22 Chinedu Udeagha, 27 Reuben Bala
7 Freedom Omofoman (4 Orok Ibitham 86′), 13 Stanley Dimgba (14 Chukwuka Onuwa 70′), 8 Bashir Abdulrahaman
37 Johnson Umah, 31 Stephen Manyo, 36 Bright Emmanuel, 18 Chinedu Udechukwu
USMAN ABD’ALLAH’S POST MATCH COMMENTS
“As you see now we’ve already clinched the first goal is the season that is to get the team back to the continental slot which we did now, and the second one the plan is just to get the trophy. So I think we are in a good position for that.
“The most important thing is for the boys to keep focus. They’ve been keeping focus and they’re concentrating and it’s good. They are responding very well.
“There is good unity in the team and the solidarity in the team is very strong and everything is going on well with us.”