Sunshine Stars left it late to salvage a 1-1 draw against visiting Dakkada FC in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Matchday 11 encounter in Akure.
Ondo State Sports Complex hosted the historic first meeting between Sunshine Stars and Dakkada FC in a game that proved how goal is the most important statistics in the game of football.
Femi Ajayi had given the away side a lead three minutes from half time but Fuad Ekelojuoti pegged the ten-man Dakkada FC to earn the home side a point in the encounter.
Shrewd first half
Dakkada FC head coach, Caleb Esu, made three changes to the team that started the derby against Akwa United last weekend. Lateef Babalola, Adewale Mathias and Arinze Obuka featured from the the start at the expense of Unwana Asuquo, Osimaga Duke and Aniekan Ekpe.
Having missed the team’s last match away at Rivers United, coach Kabiru Dogo returned to make two changes to the team that started in Port Harcourt last week, featuring Fuad Ekelojuoti and Rilwan Sadiq from the starting 11 against Dakkada FC.
Early exchanges between both sides saw few chances created until Sunshine Stars increased the pressure on the visitors through the flanks. Ekelojuoti and Timileyin ‘Omo Jesu’ Ogunniyi were the chief tormentors for Dakkada’s defence but the best chance for the Owena Whales came in 32nd minute when a marauding run by Israel Abia ended with the league’s top scorer turning provider for Waheed Adebayo whose toe poked effort hit the crossbar before flying off for a goal kick.
The home side came close again when a beautiful interplay between Ekelojuoti and Jide Fatokun created a glorious chance for the latter but his effort was deflected and ended up as an easy save for Dakkada’s goalkeeper Thomas Omokhudu.
Sunshine Stars looked like the most likely team to score an opener havung reduced their Uyo-based opponents to just one shot all game long.
However, the home side and their fans were shocked when Femi Ajayi found the net in the 42nd minute. Ajayi, whose effort ended Dakkada’s goal drought of three hours, 42 minutes, latched unto a cut back by the industrious Ifegwu Ojukwu to silence the half-filled stadium in Akure. The goal turned out to be the last significant event of the first half as both teams went into the tunnel with different sense of reward for efforts.
Tactical second half
Ajayi’s late goal in the first half apparently threw spanners into the work of both managers as each tactician rang changes early in the second half. Dogo made two changes before the start of the second half with Mohammed Suleiman and Silas Nwankwo replacing Waheed Adebayo and Rilwan Sadiq respectively. His opposite number, Esu, was also forced to make a substitution as Ubong Idio came in for injured Adewale Mathias in the 47th minute.
The changes seem to give more life in Sunshine Stars’ attack as they went very close to getting a leveller on three different occasions. Firstly, Suleiman released Abia whose left-footed effort pulled a brilliant save from Dakkada’s goalkeeper Thomas Omokhudu in the 54th minute.
Abia and Ekelojuoti could have levelled the scoreline but cross came in unfavourably for both players on different occasions. With the home fans feeling agitated, they angrily reacted to a like-for-like replacement of Jonathan Zikiye with Ayo Adejubu.
However, they gave loud cheers after Ojukwu, who had been physically overbearing for Sunshine Stars’ defenders, was sent off for an off-ball incident with an Owena Whales player in the 87th minute.
Sunshine Stars made the numerical advantage count in the 95th minute when Adejubu started a marauding run from the left wing and pulled out a beautiful cross that was met by the head of Ogunniyi. Omokhudu pulled a feeble save from the effort and led to a goalmouth scramble which ended with Ekelojuoti bundling home the ball over the line.
Speaking after the match, a disappointed Dogo felt the visitors were undeserving of a point in the match. “Firstly, let me congratulate Dakkada for a point they didn’t deserve but that’s football for you” he said.
The former Nasarawa United coach continued: “God of soccer is not on our side today. We have to overlook this and prepare for the next game.”
Up next for Sunshine Stars is a trip to Lobi Stars on Matchday 12 while Dakkada host Adamawa United.