Goalkeeper Mustapha Lawal stars as Sunshine emerged unscathed in their first outing of the New Year; NPFL round four contest with Rivers United at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Portharcourt on Sunday.
Riding on a wave of good form that saw them pick a famous win at Enyimba on matchday three, the hosts started the game on the front foot and had their first attempt at goal in the eighth minute when Chijioke Akuneto headed just high from Ebube Duru’s cross.
Moment later, the Owena Whales took hold of possession and sent Nwogbaga Patrick Ebonam through, but the lanky forward’s an effort from the edge kept rising.
Then at the other end, the visitors were relieved to see Mustapha tipped over from Akuneto’s smashing volley inside the area in the 17th minute, as United regained their measure of control.
The young goalkeeper was also on hand to repel a dangerous free-kick at the near post just before the break, a feat he replicated in the 65th minute to frustrate the Pride of Rivers.
As well as being resilient, Sunshine Stars were also positive on the break and went close to breaking the deadlock through substitute, Kamaru Adebari who fired narrowly wide at the end of a brilliant counter-attacking move, 20 minutes from time.
United picked up the intensity in the closing minutes but were only able to trouble the visitors through dead balls as clear-cut opportunities were at a premium all game.
Mustapha composed goalkeeping, supplemented by a good defensive organisation ensured Rivers United did not find a way through during a late onslaught as Sunshine Stars earned their first away point of the new season.
Deji Ayeni’s Post Match Thoughts
“Last time I said no team that is not beatable, it depends on the readiness of the players and tactical approach; Rangers lost at home and came to our back yard to get a draw, so there is nothing that is impossible in football. I give it to the boys for their sheer determination.
“I knew Rivers have fast wingers and told my boys to focus more on the first and second third and when I observed they were in more hurry and anxious in the second half I applied my second game plan with the substitutes. Like I have said before this is a young team, the more they play the more they get better. This will boost their morale and confidence.”
Sunshine Stars host Kano Pillars at the Dipo Dina Stadium, Ijebu Ode on matchday five.
Sunshine XI | Mustapha Lawal; Chinedu Ozor, Anthony Anioke, Bolu Sholumade, Onyeka Nwaiwu; Babatunde Bello, Cooper Ikenna (Kamaru Adebari 51′), Azeez Ajagbe (Kehinde Adeyemi 91′); Abdul Taofeek (Kolade Adeniji 51′), Nwogbaga Ebonam (Samson Olasupo), Leonard Ugochukwu (Michael Olulasi)
Unused Substitutes | David Ariyo; Habeeb Yakub, Hadi Mohammed, Ejike Uzoechi
Cautions | Anioke 40′ Nwaiwu 51′ Olasupo 84′ Mustapha 91′
|January 2, 2022||4:00 pm||NPFL||2021/2022||4|