A Ndifreke Effiong brace saved the blushes of Akwa United as they twice came from behind to play out a 2-2 draw against debutants Dakkada FC in a keenly contested rescheduled 2019/20 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) encounter at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo on Wednesday.
The second Qua Iboe derby in the elite division, brought forward, produced scintillating performance from both sides as they went at each other from the blast of the whistle with Dakkada creating the better opportunities in the opening moments.
After rattling their hosts Akwa United who were technically the home side, Dakkada almost got their noses in front in the sixth minute when a good team play led to a cross from the right flank which fell nicely for Moses Effiong on the edge of the box and he fired a cracking shot at goal but was blocked by Etboy Akpan to deny him.
It did not take long as Dakkada got rewarded for their good start. Akwa United conceded a free-kick just outside their box and Alaibo Somiari decided to go for goal with a fierce shot which was spilled goalkeeper Jean Efala. Spencer Bassey was quickest to the rebound and he fired another shot which still went in despite hitting the goalkeeper for the opener in the ninth minute.
The Promise Keepers pushed forward for the leveller but were vulnerable at the back especially in the 15th minute when Femi Ajayi was put through on goal and should have doubled Dakkada’s lead but got sandwiched in between two defenders and yet still managed to force goalkeeper Efala to a point-blank save. Akwa were fortunate as the rebound was missed by Dakkada’s three onrushing players.
It took 20 minutes before Akwa could make a mark in the game as Ndifreke wasted a good opportunity to level when the ball was worked well by his teammates and it fell nicely for him in the box but his effort went over the bar.
Akwa relentlessly pressed their opponents until the opportunity came when Lateef Babalola brought down Ndifreke in the box and the referee wasted no time to call for the penalty. Ndifreke dusted himself up and took the responsibility for the kick sending goalkeeper Vincent Edafe the wrong way to level things in the half-hour mark.
Efala was the busier of both keepers the reminder of the first half as he twice left his line to make two good saves as the scoreboard read 1-1 at half time.
The second half was a different ball game as both sides cancelled each other with resolute defending and chances became scarce. Both coaches made changes to their sides to see if they could get all three points but chances were few despite the display of grit and passion to get the winner.
Dakkada who had a penalty shout turned down few minutes back thought they had won in the 80th minute when an individual brilliance from their captain Eso Archibong rounded his marker on the edge of the box before unleashing a fierce, curling effort beyond the reach of goalkeeper Efala to go in front for the second time in the game.
Akwa fought back with a minute left in regulation time when Ndifreke rose highest to head home Morice Chukwu’s set-piece into the box for the equalizer to send the appreciable fans in the stadium to a frenzy.
Akwa would be disappointed with another home draw, failing to do the double over their city rivals and failing to reduce the gap with the table-toppers as they head to Enugu for a date with Rangers while Dakkada will take the long drive to Jos for an encounter with Plateau United on Matchday 20.