FC Ifeanyiubah Sunday shaded this ‘Oriental Derby’ against visiting Enyimba courtesy of a controversial goal by Godwin Obaje.
Obaje was put through on goal with ‘The People’s Elephant’ defenders expecting the first assistant referee’s flag to be raised.
But as the flag refused to go up, Obaje raced free on goal to fire home his 11th goal of the season.
Enyimba defenders protested for an offside, but the referee stuck to his guns.
Three minutes before the goal, Enyimba appeal for a penalty was ignored after Mustapha Ibrahim went to the ground inside the area under a defender’s challenge.
Late into the game, the referee stopped proceedings after the match balls ‘disappeared’ with Enyimba goalkeeper Dauda Fatau, retrieving one of the balls near his post, but was to be challenged by a cameraman, who gave him a punch in the face.
The victory gave FC Ifeanyiubah NPFL top three finish ambition a huge boost.
Fifteen free kicks, 19 thrown-ins and three corner kicks for FC Ifeanyiubah in the first period as against Enyimba’s seven free kicks, 13 throw-ins and two corner kicks were clear indications of FC Ifeanyiubah’s dominance of the first half in this NPFL matchday 29 Oriental Derby at Nnewi.
The People’s Elephants brought their huge domestic experience to bear as they calmly soaked ‘The Anambra Warriors’ pressure.
But for all their bossing of the seven-time champions, FC Ifeanyiubah front men never seriously threatened the visitors’ backline.
Instead, it was the visitors who, clad in their traditional all blue attires, came close to taking the lead on three occasions.
Making effective use of the counter attacking play, the Gbenga Ogunbote side almost caught their hosts on the back foot as Stanley Dimgba who was freed on the left by Ibrahim Mustapha on 16th minute saw his effort go wide off goalkeeper Drissa Bamba’s post.
Two minutes later, captain Mfom Udoh found space from the middle to test the resolve of the goalkeeper, but his right-footed drive from the edge of the box went marginally wide to the relief of the restive home fans.
The closest Enyimba came to taking the lead arrived on 19th minute, when ‘The People’s Elephant’ invaded their hosts territory in terrifying numbers but Bamba got his gloves to it for a corner kick.
FC Ifeanyiubah appear more comfortable with their territorial possession, but hardly tested the Enyimba keeper, who appeared contented with picking stray balls.
Frustratingly, they could not make their numerous spot kicks near the area count as the two-time African champions defended in numbers till the end of the first period.
The second half took a different shape as Enyimba came all out for the win. But their appeal for a penalty in the 46th minute was ignored after Ibrahim Mustapha went to the ground inside the area.
He was instead cautioned with a yellow card.
The home side got their goal courtesy of Godwin Obaje, who found the back of the net three minutes later.
As the game grew in intensity and apprehension, FC Ifeanyiubah assistant coach, Uche Okagbue, was sent to the stands by the referee following complaints by the fourth official.
By Sab Osuji