Plateau United’s quest for a crucial away point in their Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) title bid was dealt a blow with almost the last kick of the game at El-Kanemi Warriors where they lost one-nil on Sunday.
Sunday Anthony struck in the last minute of added time to give El-Kanemi a 1-0 victory over Plateau United at the El-Kanemi Stadium in Maiduguri.
From the first blast of the whistle, El-Kanemi were on the front foot pinning the visitors to their half.
The league leaders’ tactics are usually built around Daniel Itodo’s throw-ins but El-Kanemi limited Plateau United’s throw-ins much farther from the areas they would be threats. There was a conscious effort by El-Kanemi to avoid conceding throw-ins in their half of the pitch.
One way they executed this to perfection was by playing high up the pitch. A hyper-pressing game that made it difficult for Plateau United to come forward.
On such days, Plateau United needed goalkeeper Dele Ajiboye to bring his A-game and he duly obliged. It became an El-Kanemi shooting exercise against an Ajiboye that refused to be beaten.
From the sixth minute when Ajiboye saved Anthony’s goal-bound effort, it was apparent this was going to be one of those days of the ‘Ajiboye heroics.’
In the 31st minute, Isiaka Olawale’s long range shot was well on target but Ajiboye stretched and parried into corner.
Right before half time, Hussaini Baita intercepted a Plateau United pass, set himself up for goal but once more, Ajiboye thwarted his effort.
But Ajiboye’s best save came in the 54th minute. Yahuza Bala had just the keeper to beat but Ajiboye spread out, formed himself into a human wall and kept Plateau in the game.
While Ajiboye was standing between El-Kanemi and goal, Chibuzor Okonkwo’s free-kicks posed the greatest threats to the visitors. In the 27th and 52nd minutes, Okonkwo’s efforts were inches off target.
It was only fitting that the former Nigerian international had a hand in the match winner.
In the last minute of added time, two minutes after substitute, Bello Kofarmata had failed to tap into an unguarded net, Okonkwo’s freekick was flicked in by Anthony leaving Ajiboye stranded.
El-Kanemi: George Michael, Chibuzor Okonkwo, Alimanika Usman, Aghahowa Otakho, Lucky Erimuya, Tcoanfine Pade, Hussaini Bata, Sunday Anthony,Ibrahim Babangida (Bello Kofarmata 74′), Isiaka Olawale, Yahuza Bala (Samuel Mathias 55′)
Plateau United: Dele Ajiboye, Emma James, Daniel Itodo, Jimmy Ambrose, Golbe Elisha, Oghene Elijah, Peter Eneji, Emmanuel Odafe (Lazarus Fan 65′), Anayo Ogbonna (Emeka Umeh 58′), Kabiru Umar (Hamzat Owolabi 76′), Benjamin Turba