It was a tale of three penalties in the latest contest between these two bitter rivals, with the Aba Elephants requiring a late spot kick to overcome the Solid Miners who twice came from behind to even scores.
United continued with their newly found impressive form as they took the ball to their hosts in the early stages of the game with Sunday Okereke flicking a header toward the path of Adamu Hassan but the former Kano Pillars’ front-man got his intention well read by goalkeeper, Djeri Bassa.
King Osanga also scuffled a shot from close range after pouncing on a rebound, though his effort went a fraction off target.
The United’s backline had to be at their best to halt a marauding run from the home side with Manga Mohammed the fulcrum while Joshua Ogbole kept a water-tight defensive midfield.
Okereke again breached the Enyimba defence, unfortunately, his low strike got parried away by the goalkeeper.
As the game progressed, the hosts fortified and caused series of troubles, forcing goalkeeper, Ameh Godwin into some acrobatic saves.
Their persistence paid off with a minute left to play before the half-time whistle as Samuel Stone capitalized on a poorly cleared ball in the visitors’ territory to easily tap in.
Three minutes into the restart, Adamu Hassan was fouled close to the box, and former junior international, King Osanga, delivered the eventual kick toward the path of Sunday Okereke who beautifully collected the ball mid-air and dribbled past the advancing goalkeeper before instinctively pinging the ball into an empty net for the equaliser.
Hardly had the away side settled down than the Aba Elephants netted their second goal courtesy of Emeka Obioma.
Again, the Solid Miners rallied back to restore parity thirteen minutes before regulation time through Michael Tochukwu, after Sunday Okereke’s pass to Aliyu Abdullahi saw the winger getting fouled inside the box. It was Tochukwu’s ninth goal of the current campaign.
But drama ensued in the game largely dominated by the Lafia-based side after Enyimba was awarded a penalty eleven minutes to full-time as the referee adjudged Manga Mohammed to have fouled Sadiq, a decision that didn’t go down well with the United’s side. Ameh Godwin, however, brilliantly saved the kick from Austin Oladapo.
Enyimba got rewarded with another spot kick five minutes before regulation time and a straight red card for left full-back, Ini Edem, after he fouled Christian Ekong.
Farouk Mohammed converted the kick as the Aba Elephants held on to the scoreline to win the nervy contest 3-2, a result that sees United drop to 13th position with 38 points while Enyimba moved to 6th with 45 points.
The Solid Miners would next face Abia Warriors in a midweek clash at home before travelling to Akure, Ondo State, to tackle Sunshine Stars in a week 32 tie.
Coach Bala Nikyu: “The game has been played, won and lost.
“My players played what was expected of them but only got unlucky that the game ended the way it did.
“I don’t comment about referees. Today’s referee had the opportunity to control the game and he did what he should do.
“We have virtually new crop of players in our fold this season following the mass exodus of our players at the end of last season, so, we are trying to get them blended, and hoping that the coming season will be better for us.
“I am happy with the goalscoring form of Michael Tochukwu, though it’s not new to me as I am used to producing highest goalscorers in the league – in fact, I have been able to produce four league’s highest goalscorers since I began my coaching career.
“So, it’s my wish to see Michael Tochukwu become the league’s highest goalscorer.”
Coach Deniran Ortega(ENY): It’s an interesting game; I must congratulate Nasarawa United because they did well.
“They have two strong strikers who were giving troubles to my midfield and defence.
“I anticipated the game to turn out the way it did which was why we prepared to score more goals.
“But I don’t know what happened in the first-half as they replied every goal we scored in the second half.
“We will work on our defence line ahead of subsequent games.
“However, today is my birthday and the victory is a double win for me.”
Sunday Okereke (NAS): “I am glad to score against Enyimba today even though the result didn’t go our way.
“We tried to fight back but that’s football for you.
“Whatever the outcome, we accept it in good faith and move on.
“Yeah, the league is difficult but we are doing our best to adapt to it.
“It’s my first league experience and I dream to become the league’s highest goalscorer in no distant time.”
Michael Tochukwu(NAS): “I feel good to have scored my 9th league goal of the season, and I hope to keep scoring with the help of God and my teammates.
“Today’s game was difficult from the start but when we equalised, we took control of the game, just unfortunate that it ended the way it did.”