Sunshine Stars FC of Akure slipped on the road as a first-half goal from Paul Samson gave Abia Warriors the edge in the thrilling Boxing Day contest at the Okigwe Township Stadium.
It was the first taste of NPFL 2021/22 action for the Owena Whales whose opening day fixture with Wikki Tourists could not hold and the Deji Ayeni led side’s resolve in Sunday’s matchday two encounters was undone by several missed chances.
Sunshine Stars made a lively start to life in the opening quarter of an hour, with Hammed Taofeek troubling the host’s area before Mustapha Lawal also kept one out for Sunshine Stars at the other end.
Abia Warriors however stuck their noses in front through Paul Samson who bridged the Owena Whales backline with a brilliant solo move at the stroke of the half-hour mark.
The surge for a leveller began for the Akure landlords but a firm Pius Ibrahim in the host’s goal mouth kept out Uzoechi Ejike and Bello Babatunde at different intervals before Azeez Ajagbe’s goal-bound attempt was also cleared off the line in the 41st minute.
As halftime approached, Sunshine Stars had a penalty appeal for a handball in the area, but the referee was unfazed.
After the restart, Coach Deji Ayeni rang the changes and the boys continued the search for the evasive goal, no thanks to missed chances and elastic defending by the hosts.
Bello Babatunde had another shot at goal from a well-taken free-kick close to the edge of the area in added time, but Pius tipped over from what proved to be Sunshine Stars’ last chance of the game.
The hosts returned to their backyard with all the points and Sunshine Stars regroup for the next outing against Rangers in Ijebu Ode.
AYENI’S POST-MATCH QUOTES
“We take positive from the game and go back to work on our mistakes. The officiating was fantastic and I see a real spirit of sportsmanship from Abia Warriors and their supporters worthy of emulation by the other teams, with these our football will get better.
“Every game has its tactical approach; I approached this game based on the information available to me on Abia style of play, hence the strong and dominant approach to the second half. Now we are going home to get our three maximum points, we almost got a draw here if not for hard luck. Our striker profligacy is down to anxiety, we will work on it and make them see a reason to calm down in front of the goal.
Sunshine XI Mustapha Lawal, Chinedu Ozor Chigozie Chilekwu, Kehinde Adeyemi (C), Ejike Uzoechi (Bolu Sholumade 69′), Cooper Ikenna (Samson Olasupo 69′), Kolade Adeniji (Hadi Mohammed 55′), Babatunde Bello, Azeez Ajagbe, Hammed Abdul Taofeek (Leonard Ugochukwu 55′), Nwogbaga Patrick Ebonam (Kamaru Adebari 74′)
Unused Substitutes David Ariyo, Anthony Anioke, Onyeka Nwaiwu, Michael Olulasi
Cautions Chilekwu 52′, Adeyemi 86′