Ikhana’s Pillars too strong for the Elephant

Four consecutive matches without a win and you have the right to be mad. Three loses in four is surely not the stuff of Champions. Enyimba travelled to Kano and left the groundnut city empty handed despite playing the last 20 minutes with one more player after Chinedu Udoji got his marching orders.

It was the biggest clash of the weekend and of the season. 11 of the last 16 league titles have been shared by these two clubs. The game was like a reunion and maybe a case of which side of the fence is greener. Theophilus Afelokhai returned to where he used to call home, but the real talk was the number of ex-Enyimba players with the yellows of Pillars. Idris Aloma, Emmanuel Anyanwu, Bala Zakka, Kamal Sikiru and Chinedu Udoji all started against Enyimba. Our former coach Kadiri Ikhana was in charge of the home side.

After the goalless draw against Shooting Stars in Calabar, Ogunbote opted for a 4-4-2 in Kano. The starting line-up included Afelokhai in goal, Gbadebo and Anaemena as the centre back pairing, Dare Ojo and Chima Akas as full backs, Kester and Ibenegbu in the middle, Captain Mfon Udoh on the right and Stanley Dimgba on the left. Ibrahim Mustapha and Stephen Chukwude were upfront.

Enyimba looked dangerous going forward in the early part of the first half. Early chances from Stephen Chukwude and Ibrahim Mustapha were blocked with the Elephants flagged offside twice in the first 12 minutes. Rabiu Ali got a chance at Enyimba’s goal after he dazzled through our backline but his final shot was picked up by Afelokhai.

The Elephants had three chances at the Pillars goal. Danladi needed a second attempt to save from Stanley Dimgba, Ibenegbu’s screamer missed the top corner by the whiskers. This was immediately followed by another missed effort by Ibrahim Mustapha. The Elephants were on the ascendency but their rise was cut short in 24th minute when a free-kick by Kabiru Balogun got deflected into the net.

In the 34th minute, Stephen Chukwude almost got the equalizer. He waltzed through the Pillars’ defence, easily evading Udoji but his shot was saved by Danladi in goal for Pillars. The resultant corner kick was wasted like every other corner kick by Enyimba. Ibrahim Mustapha looked like he promised someone a goal. In the 40th minute his long range shot was tipped over by Danladi Isah. The keeper we were going to sign but we couldn’t. 

Towards the end of the half time, Emma Anyanwu and Chinedu Udoji got the 2nd and 3rd yellow cards of the game and for Kano Pillars. Udoji’s yellow card was to prove decisive in the second half. Enyimba could have been 2-0 down just before the break. An unmarked Mafizi missed a free header from Gambo Mohammed’s cross. The Enyimba backline were on holidays to the Bahamas.

Enyimba came out blazing just like in the first half but were easily neutralized by the home side. In the 51st minute, Kester blocked two consecutive shots inside the Enyimba box after a corner kick was lofted in. Gambo Mohammed resulting shot went wide.

Captain Mfon Udoh made way for Joseph Osadiaye in the 53rd minute. 6 minutes later, Danladi kept Ibrahim Mustapha from grabbing the equalizer with a save. The resultant corner kick fell to Mustapha but his free header went wide. It was his closest chance in the game.

A minute later, any hope of a repeat of the 2016 encounter where Enyimba came from a goal down to win 2-1 went with the North East Trade Winds. Kabiru Balogun beat the offside trap and slotted in Pillars’ second of the game. We have constantly failed to keep offside traps this season.

In the 66th minute, Udoji happened. He decided to lift up holy hands in the box after a free kick was played in. While his coach surprisingly says he was pushed by an Elephant, the referee gave him his second yellow and thus a red card for a clear handball. Maybe the push was a spiritual one. Without Mfon Udoh on the pitch, Stephen Chukwude took up the duty and converted to pull Enyimba back.

With the one-man advantage, an equalizer was expected. The gaffer threw in Gata for Dimgba in the 78th minute to add more fire upfront but Enyimba rather got three yellow cards before the 90th minute. Andrew Abalogu came in for tired Ibrahim Mustapha in the 90th but the Elephants conceded a late goal in the 94th minute thanks to a lurking Gambo Mohammed after a free kick clearance hit the post. 

You would agree that the final result was not a true reflection of how the visitors played but the game is about goals. It was a poor way to lose to Kano and ended our three match winning streak against Kano Pillars. It was the first time in 7 years that we had conceded three times in a game against Kano Pillars. We are now winless in four. We cannot afford to continue this way. This is a replica of the last 5 matches of last season where we could not earn a win. 

We need a response ASAP.

– Amos Chibuzor (@amoscp)

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