A ten-man Sunshine Stars laboured to secure a narrow win over Abia Warriors in Sunday’s NPFL meeting at the Dipo Dina Stadium, Ijebu Ode.
After a good opening period where the Owena Whales went close more than once, Ejike Uzoechi stepped up to hand us the advantage from the spot in the 21′, following a challenge on Ikenna Cooper inside the area.
The boys had the chance to extend the lead in the 25′ but Jide Jimoh elected for a shot that ended wide off the mark with Leonard Ugochukwu lurking in front of goal.
The visibly fatigued boys began playing at lower tempo just after the half hour mark, allowing Abia Warriors to create two big chances, with the first resulting in a voided goal while Godwin Obaje blasted high from close range in the 42′.
While the visitors upped the ante, Sunshine Stars did not stop creating and could have scored a second through Ugochukwu who fired wide from a sweeping team move at the stroke of half time.
Mustapha Lawal who had a busier second period showed alertness to deny Paul Samson from a mesmerising solo move at the hour mark.
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The Sunshine boys had their work cut out with the dismissal of Chinedu Ozor 13 minutes, but dug deep to come away with the narrow win, thanks to the brilliancy of goalkeeper Lawal and good game management.
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Cameroonian tactician, Emmanuel Deutcsh who was understandably pleased to mark his first home game with a win, lamented the effect of fatigue on his players.
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“The match was not easy; we played on Thursday, travelled from Kaduna to Akure on Friday and arrived here Saturday and we played against a team that have enough time to rest because they played at home on Wednesday. The fatigue started showing in the first half.
“Abia played a fast one on me with their strategy because the players that I know did not start and they played in 4-3-3 shape where all of them come to the midfield and opened up too. But we could have won this match in the first if not the two, three opportunities we missed in front of goal.
“You know I just come in and from tomorrow we will have a long week to prepare for Rangers and work on some lapses.” Deutcsh said.
Sunshine Stars moved a place up to sixth in the standings with 32 points and next visit Awka for a date with Enugu Rangers on matchday 23.
Sunshine XI | Lawal; Ozor, Anioke, Uzoech, Dauda; Nwaiwu, Cooper, Awosanmi (Olasupo 48, Abe 79′) Ajagbe (Koffi Adjoumani 73′); Jimoh (Adeniji 48′), Ugochukwu
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Unused Subs | Ariyo; Adeyemi, Chilekwu, Hadi, Ogunye
Cautions | Uzoechi 14′ Ozor 32′ Lawal 65′ 77′ Dauda 56′