By Leo Nzwanke, Lafia
Nasarawa United Football Club of Lafia, playing at home on Sunday, kept hopes of playing continental football next season alive with a 4-0 crushing of visiting Sunshine Stars Football Club of Akure.
The 2020/2021 Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) Matchday 35 saw all the four goals coming in the first half, with NPFL top scorer, Silas Nwankwo getting a brace to increase his tally to 18 goals so far.
Daybreak news reports that both teams were scheduled to meet twice within the week with Nasarawa United already winning the first encounter, before they will be opportune to rekindle their rivalry again on July 30th, in one of the 2021 Aiteo Cup semi finals in Asaba, Delta State.
The first half showcased the intention and determination of Nasarawa United in their quest for a continental slot as they completely dominated the encounter throughout the 45 minutes of play.
Nwankwo put the home team in the lead with a fine shot into the left corner of the net in the 11th minute and in the 18th minute secured his brace after the Sunshine goalkeeper, in a comical fashion, mistakenly spilled the ball towards him, while trying to kick the ball to a team mate.
In the 23rd minute, Nwankwo turned provider when he fired in a cross from the left side of the Sunshine Stars defence area into their penalty area for Aliyu Abdullahi to stab in from close range.
Chigozie Obasi got the best applause from home fans after his thunderous freekick outside the 18 yard box in the 39th minute beat Sunshine Stars’ goalkeeper, Henry Ayodele, to make it 4-0 till the end of the first half.
Despite the continuous dominance of the home side in the second half, however, they could not add to the goal tally till the final whistle.
Speaking in a post match interview, Bala Nikyu, Head Coach of Nasarawa United, lamented his team’s missed chances in the second half, after their brilliant performance in the first half that gave them the 4-0 margin.
He, however, praised them for their impressive performance, pledging to ensure they kept on the momentum till the end of the season.
“Four goals is a good one for us. We appreciate the way they came. If not for the late chances we lost, it would have been up to Six goals,” he said.
On the other hand, Head Coach of Sunshine Stars, Deji Ayeni, blamed fatigue for the poor performance of his boys and promised that they will bounce back and give a better performance in the Aiteo Cup semi finals on July 30th.
“I saw a lot of fatigue in my boys. The programme of the Nigerian Football Federation is really affecting so many teams in the country.
“It will get to a stage that when you push the players psychologically and mentally, they are going to be down and you cannot get the best from them. But congratulations to Nasarawa United.
“I see that they are playing at home in front of their fans. That alone is a motivational factor for them to reap a better part of the game. By and large, I give it to them,” Ayeni said.
“We will go back home to re-strategize for the semi final of the Aiteo Cup and I assure you that it’s going to be a different ball game. We are looking forward to absolute victory in that encounter,” he said.