Sunshine Stars forced Kwara United to a goalless result in Sunday’s Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Matchday 16 fixture played at the Kwara State Sports Complex, Ilorin to extend their unbeaten run against the host to nine league matches.
The form of both sides before the fixture had built a great spectacle for fans and neutrals as battle for supremacy was to be renewed. Kwara United had won each of their last three games coming into this game without conceding in their last five hours 10 minutes of action. Their visitors from Akure also boasted similar form, albeit with one clean sheet from the three consecutive wins.
Coach Abdullahi Biffo made eight changes to the Kwara United team that recorded a famous 2-0 away win at Akwa United on Wednesday. Only Christopher Nwanzie, Febian Nworie and Adah Stephen retained their slots in the team.
Contrastingly, Sunshine Stars coach, Kabiru Dogo, fielded ten of his eleven starters from the midweek fixture as Sadeeq Yusuf replaced Mohammed Suleiman upfront for the Akure based side.
Cagey first half
The match started with Kwara United ceaselessly chasing an ascendency. The early rush earned the homers a chance in the fourth minute as Wasiu Jimoh’s back pass fell kindly for Issah Saidu but the winger’s cut back failed to connect a team mate before Tope Akande contributed a timely clearance.
Sunshine Stars front three of Timileyin Ogunniyi, Fuad Ekelojuoti and Yusuf were tactically set up to pounce on a counter attack and the first opportunity arose in the 10th minute when Ogunniyi broke through the left channel, skipped past Dede Moughera before releasing a left-footed shot that was calmly collected by goalkeeper, Abdulateef Ishola.
The early exchange cooled off midway into the half as highflying tackles replaced half chances. Sunshine Stars’ combative midfielder Anthony Omaka eventually broke the referee’s lenient resolve as he got booked for a foul on Ozoh Philip in the 27th minute.
The first half ended with little chances created in the closing ten minutes, leaving the approximately 11000 fans in the stands with yearn for a better second half.
Blunt Second half
The players returned from the break with almost the same impetus with which the first half ended as the Owena Whales goalkeeper, Ojo Olorunleke, resorted to a time wasting approach.
The former Akwa United goalie was eventually booked in the 52nd minute while receiving treatment for a knock.
The home side intensified their search for an elusive opener when left-footed volleys by Adah Stephen and Moughera sailed off target in quick succession.
Biffo elected to make substitutions by introducing Abdulsalam Abdulsalam but the winger failed to influence his team’s blunt attack.
In-form Alao Danbani, who scored three goals in Kwara United’s last three matches, also came off the bench late on, only to provide little but toothless bite to the game.
Sunshine Stars could have won all points when Ogunniyi collected the ball from the centre circle, orchestrated beautiful interplay with Sadeeq Yusuf and Ekelojuoti before releasing a powerful shot that came off Fabian Nworie, hitting the upright for a corner kick.
The goalless result ended either side’s three-game winning streak but was also enough for Sunshine Stars to extend their unbeaten streak against Kwara United to 9 NPFL matches, dating back to a 1-0 defeat to the Harmony Boys in May 2012.