Akwa Utd trio star in 3-0 thrashing of Gombe Utd to keep up title chase


Ibrahim Alhassan, Musa Newman and Christian Pyagbara played major roles for Akwa United as they trounced relegation threatened Gombe United 3-0 at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo on Sunday to move into the top-three as the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) enters its run-in stage.

Christian Pyagbara came off the bench to make massive contribution as Akwa United scored three past Struggling Gombe United.

Pyagbara who has been rested in recent matches came on in the second half as Akwa United coach, Abdu Maikaba tried to tweak his team against a very confident Gombe United who held Nasarawa United to a 1-1 draw the last time they were on the road.

Musa Newman broke the deadlock in the 57th minute before Ibrahim Alhassan converted a penalty and Christian Pyagbara completed the scoring for the Promise Keepers.

The match opened with both teams playing safe and failed to create a clear cut chance up until the 36th minute.

However, in the 22nd minute, Alhassan was brought down outside the box. Ifeanyi Ifeanyi took the resultant free kick and played it straight into Gombe United goalkeeper Danjuma Hussaini's hands. In the 38th minute, Gombe United pushed for a goal when Sani Abbani ran down and fired a shot at Akwa's post but Akwa United goalkeeper, Ojo Olorunleke was alert to stop the attempt. Towards the end of a futile first half, in the 45th minute, Gombe United's Sadiq Shuaibu entered the referee's book after fouling an Akwa United player.

Second half started with Akwa United looking rejuvenated and pegged their opponents in their half. Fifty one minutes into the game, Maikaba substituted Hassan Babangida for Christian Pyagbara who brought spark into his team's attack. Newman broke the deadlock in the 57th minute after beating Hussaini with an assist provided by Cyril Olisema. The goal increased the Promise Keepers' confidence, leaving Gombe United defending for their lives. Gombe United coach, Manu Garba tried to shake up his team when he pulled out Tijjani Adamu for Habib Yakub. He followed that up with another quick substitute of Austine Oladapo for Sanusi Sani. However, these substitutions did not improve his team's display as Akwa continued to ask all the questions and in the 75th minute Newman was fouled in the box and the referee awarded a penalty which was converted by Alhassan to extend Akwa's lead to two goals. Gombe United are now in 19th place with 34 points after 29 matches while Akwa United sit in third position with 46 points, five behind league leaders Plateau United.