Matchday 2 of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Invitational Tournament witnessed two entertaining games but ironically had no goals to show for the high quality football that was on display on Wednesday.
What is the essence of beautiful football if it does not yield goals? Many are wont to ask. But a combination of brilliant performances by the keepers and the attackers’ lack of bite in the final third ensured both games ended goalless.
In the first game, Pillars drew 0-0 with Akwa United but it was Pillars keeper, Isa Danladi who stood between Akwa United and goal.
In one moment of bravery in the 38th minute, he pulled a double save first off Cyril Olisema before thwarting Musa Newman’s follow-up effort.
When in the 73rd minute, Akwa managed to get beyond Isa, Amaechi Orji’s goal-bound shot was cleared off the line.
While Pillars missed the cutting edge hitherto provided by their captain Rabiu Ali, Akwa’s trio of Aminu Nuhu, Christopher Lolo and Yenne Tenton bossed the middle of the park. A dominance that did not reflect on the scoreboard.
At some point in the second half, the hosts were pegged back in their half and were only left off the hook by the referee’s final whistle.
If the first game was thrilling, the second lived up to the high expectations given the star cast. CHAN Eagles and Plateau United ended it goalless.
A game that pitted the defending champions against a selection of the best legs in the NPFL should be of high quality and this did not disappoint.
What Pillars missed in Rabiu Ali was the CHAN Eagles’ gain as his deft touches and passes provided the needed incision from deep. But despite all the good football in the middle of the park, the attackers could not break down opposing defenses.
Eagles’ central defence pair of Olamilekan Adeleye Aniyikaye and Timothy Danladi were so hard on Plateau’s new recruit and last season’s NNL top scorer Tosin Omoyele that the lad made limited incursions into the box. But Aniyikaye was replaced by Kalu Orji Okogbue early in the game following an injury he sustained.
Omoyele’s alertness and mazy runs caught the eyes and earned him a standing ovation when he was substituted but that was all. He never troubled Ikechukwu Ezenwa in goal for the national team. He was restricted to bursts from deep and wide positions.
On the other end, Plateau United’s duo of Elisha Golbe and Salomon Junior kept Eagles forwards at bay.