Akwa United blew away the chance to close the gap between themselves and the top teams after playing out a 1-1 draw with Plateau United in a rescheduled match.
The Uyo side have lacked composure in the final third in recent weeks. That problem continued on Wednesday — and they were left frustrated as Hamzat Owolabi’s close-range finish cancelled Cyril Olisema’s opener to earn Kennedy Boboye’s men a well-deserved point at the Nest of Champions.
The first half was slow, with just a few chances. Odah Okiemute saved Olisema’s volley and at the other end, Tosin Omoyele forced Emmanuel Iwu into a brilliant save after climbing above two orange shirts to connect with Amos Gyang’s corner kick.
Just before the break, the home team — playing without their coach, Abdul Maikaba, who’s with the Nigeria U20 team — had another chance to go in front. New signing, Ifeanyi Ede did well to hold off his marker, cut onto his right before sending a curling shot towards goal, only to be denied by the upright.
Much of the second half highlights involved two substitutes — Paul Obata and Hamzat Owolabi. The former, who replaced the ineffective Haggai Katoh just before the restart, didn’t need time to endear himself to the home crowd. Barely a minute after coming on, the left-footed winger coolly controlled Nya’s long pass, found his way into the penalty area but his curling shot sailed just wide of the far post. A little later on, his vision led to the opener. He released Ede, who squared the ball to the onrushing Olisema to tap in.
At the other end of the pitch, Owolabi was proving a handful, quite often troubling Nya. The Plateau no. 14 controlled fellow substitute Seth Mayi’s short pass, held off Nya before brilliantly turning to fire past Iwu from four yards for the equaliser.
Akwa endured two self-inflicted scare. First, it was it was Owolabi who cut onto his right before firing wide from the edge of the box after Kelly Kester gave away the ball. Then, Etim Matthew was outmuscled by Owolabi but Nya came to the rescue, intercepting the forward’s cross.
Michael Ibe was guilty of missing a sitter. When Ede’s pass found the attacking midfielder, it looked like it was going to be an easy finish. Ibe, though, fired over the crossbar.
Late on, Obata almost handed the hosts all three points, connecting with a cross with the back of his head. Only a brilliant save from Okiemute could get in the way•