Akwa United kicked off their Confederation Cup playoff with a shock 2-1 home loss to Hawks FC.
In the largely one-sided game played under wet conditions, it was the dominant side who went into the the break with a disadvantage.
On another day, the visitors could have conceded at least four goals. The fact that the ball was retrieved from their goal on only one occasion is in large part thanks to goalkeeper Yankuba Colley.
What was noticeable from the outset was Anumana Fatty’s men sitting back and seeming content to absorb Akwa United pressure.
Things were going in very frustrating fashion for the home side, as they struggled to look dangerous in the final third. And instead of getting a breakthrough, they went behind. Goalkeeper Olorunleke Ojo spilled a freekick and Mohammed Jallow fired home the rebound. Akwa, though, almost equalized immediately through Michael Ibe almost, who fired from the edge of the box.
On 35 minutes, Lamine Chatty extended the away side’s lead, when he finished off a counter attack, beating Ojo with a brilliant strike from 22 yards.
Ubong Friday was guilty of missing a sitter, Akwa’s best chance of the first half. Aniekeme Asuquo sent a pass to Victor Mbaoma, whose ball was deflected into the path of Friday, but the winger contrived to blaze wide from six yards. Kelly Kester also went close. The midfielder wriggled his way past two defenders before seeing his effort deflected wide for a corner.
Abdul Maikaba’s men were more assured after the interval, creating many scoring chances. However, they could only hit the back of the net once, as man-of-the-match Colley pulled off some stunning saves to preserve his side’s lead.
Mbaoma chested substitute Adeshina Gata’s cross before volleying home from close range — and Friday went close to getting an equaliser late on. With Volley well beaten by the Nigeria international’s brilliant header, the crossbar came to Hawk’s rescue.
Gabriel Okechukwu — playing his first game since returning from the African Championship — also went close. The striker, who came on in place of Cyril Olisema in the first half, saw his freekick sail narrowly over the bar, and then failed to direct Gata’s perfectly weighted cross into an empty net.
Kester, like Okechukwu, had two good chances — first, skipping past his marker before firing agonisingly wide of the near post, and then being denied by Colley’s bravery. The former Enyimba man’s shot seemed destined for the top left post, but Colley dived and pushed the ball around the post.
In the closing minutes, Friday crashed a powerful header against the cross bar and Colley’s outstretched leg kept out Ibe’s shot to cap a frustrating evening for the Promise Keepers — and ensure that Hawks head into the second leg in Banjul with a morale-boosting 2-1 lead.